After having teamed with Adventisthelp in September 2016 at the Oinfyta refugee camp in Greece, we were intrigued with the story of their new project.
In January, 2017, Dr Michael John Von Horston, the founder of NGO Adventisthelp, began negotiations with the UN, UNHCR, Iraqi and Kurdish governments and health departments with a proposal to build an emergency field hospital in Northern Iraq.
The location of the emergency hospital was approved and work began in March 2017. The emergency hospital was to be erected at the new Hassan Sham U2 camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) located 25kms east of Mosul. The hospital was located in this camp to provide emergency medical assistance for the 10,000+ expected internally displace persons who were to move into this new camp. This camp is located in a hub of 5 camps housing 100,000+ internally displaced people – many of whom had fled Mosul.
$22,000 raised for two hospital wards
…… and so began the earnest fundraising and journey of Operation Hope members to Iraq.
By the time the team of five arrived in Iraq in May we had raised almost $A22,000 to fund two wards in the emergency hospital – one ward for women and one ward for children. Due to local logistical issues, the emergency field hospital was not completed and opened until July 2017. Between July and December 2017 the staff had seen 20,000+ patients.
We spent the four weeks in May:
- Assisting in the building project.
- Purchasing resources for children’s activities, which unfortunately did not occur in a formal sense because the residents of Hassan Sham only moved into the camp in mid May. Additionally, there was no area where we could facilitate these activities in shade.
- Visiting hospitals in Erbil and supporting the IDPs who had been admitted and required surgery or treatment and building relationships with contacts in the medical field to offer future help.
- Visiting a girls school, outside Erbil, where girls from Mosul were given classes in the afternoons by volunteer teachers, we all enjoyed participating in the class discussions.
- Distributing pharmaceutical items, food, water, clothes, blankets and nappies to particular families in need in the Hassan Sham U2 camp and also IDPs from the camps who were in hospitals in Erbil.
- Journeying to Alqosh, an ancient village located within the Nineveh Plains. We visited the New Hope Trauma Centre, offering assistance to the IDPs in the camps in that area. We were accompanied by an Australian Psychologist, a fellow volunteer, who led a two day Psychological First Aid course for us and the staff at the New Hope Trauma centre.
- Participating in discussion with Adventisthelp regarding the UN approval for erection of a new medical centre (dental, doctor, psychological) adjacent to the Emergency field hospital and highlighting the urgent need for a mental health care program.
- We had fun distributing over 300 hand knitted teddy bears, beanies, and jumpers to patients at the emergency field hospital, New Hope Trauma Centre in Alqosh and one of the large hospitals in Erbil.
$6,000 raised towards a building for the mental health care unit.
By the time we returned to Australia it was clear that our next fundraising efforts was to help pay for a unit in the medical centre to enable a program of mental health care for the residents. Every internally displaced person has a shocking story – torture, starvation, being made to watch the execution of family and/or friends, living in hiding, surviving in a war torn city, capture, rape and torture at the hands of ISIS, destruction of their homes and livelihood. Children have gone for years without education or been forced to attend Daesh run schools and be indoctrinated by a cruel regime.
In July we were able to remit $A6,000 for the mental health care project. World Vision initially used the unit to run a mental health care program but by end of November handed back the unit to Adventisthelp who have a volunteer psychologist commencing in 2018.
In May, we met and worked alongside Darya Mustafa, a local Kurd who lives in Erbil and works for an NGO in the camps. His job includes organising transfer of IDPS who have been referred to hospitals in Erbil, negotiating with the surgeons and hospital administrators for the best prices for treatments and surgery, organising all the pre surgery tests including pharmaceutical items and blood. At the same time he ensures that any family members left behind in the camps continue to get their food rations and in some cases, if they are minors, Darya organises a relative or friend to look after these children. Many of the injuries are direct trauma and burns sustained in air strikes in Mosul, or from cooking accidents in the tents. Other surgeries and treatments are the result of years of shocking living conditions and little access to good medical care – eye disease, cancer, abdominal problems, hereditary conditions and malnutrition.
Darya has become an honorary Operation Hope team member – our man on the ground – and we have relied on his knowledge of each case to assess urgency and make the decision as to whether we can fund particular cases. Since September we have helped financially with over a dozen cases – mainly children – and in doing helped to save these children’s lives and heal them so they can live a life without their injury. Each of the children are featured in our blog section.
In December we launched our ‘Christmas Appeal’ and raised over $A14,000. We have remitted over $6,000 to financially assist in the medical cases. The remaining $8,000 has been set aside for a large project – presently tagged to help fund a shipping container of donated medical equipment and supplies to Iraq.
The photo at the start of this report shows the emergency field hospital located on the left hand side and the new medical centre (with elevated roof) on the right hand side.