Internally displaced health workers support services for IDPs in Kirkuk

29 December 2016 – Nine-year-old Heba fled Hawija district in Kirkuk, Iraq, with her parents and 3 brothers almost 2 months ago and has been living in Daquq camp in Kirkuk since. “We lived under ISIL for more than 2 years,” said Heba’s mother. “We left because there was no food left to buy but bread. We were hungry, and we were scared for our lives from the constant airstrikes.”

Heba and her family left their home in Hawija at sunset, and began their journey by foot to Daquq camp. “We arrived the following day in the afternoon,” said Heba’s mother. “We passed many people on the way dying of thirst, or too sick to make the journey.”

More than 50 000 people are estimated to remain in Hawija district in Kirkuk, home to an estimated 450 000 people prior to June 2014. Six camps in Kirkuk host a total of over 27 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), the majority of them from Hawija.

Health services in Daquq camp are provided by the Directorate of Health of Kirkuk governorate and supported by WHO and other health cluster partners.

Wissam Ahmad Mussa is an internally displaced person from Hawija district in Kirkuk governorate. He works as a laboratory technician in Daquq IDP camp in Kirkuk. He supports other medical teams to carry out laboratory tests and investigations. 

For the last 3 months Wissam has worked tirelessly to serve his community amidst some challenges. "We provide the needed laboratory services to the IDP but it's not easy,” says Wissam. “Each day we are faced with shortage of reagents, which makes it difficult for us to conduct medical tests requested by the doctors. Often times, we refer patients to Dakuk hospital and send some samples like leishmaniasis to Baghdad”. 

Although the number of patients in the camp are overwhelming there are only 2 laboratory technicians serving a population of over 7000 IDPs. 

According to Wissam, the most requested tests are those for leishmaniasis (a parasitic disease caused by infection with Leishmania parasites, which are spread by the bite of infected sandflies) and blood sugar levels, many of which test positive for diabetes. The camp clinic sees almost 300 patients a day, and more than 200 people in the camp are receiving treatment for leishmaniasis, which is endemic in Hawija district.

Wissam may sometimes not be happy with the challenges that he faces as he carries out his duties, but he is thankful for being able to get back to the pay roll after a year’s long stay without salary. 

“Serving my community has also enabled me get back my source of livelihood, this has enabled me comfortably provide for my family again, thanks to the Directorate of Health, Kirkuk.” says Wissam.  He adds that, so many other health workers in Hawija still do not receive their salaries because they have been forced out of service due to the ongoing conflict inside their district.

Since the start of 2016, WHO has provided the Directorate of Health with 3 mobile clinics that are being used to deliver health services in Daquq and other IDP camps, donated 2 ambulances used for referrals, positioned 2 caravans inside Daquq camp and trained 7 mobile medical teams to deliver services in the camps. 

In addition, WHO continues to support health authorities in Kirkuk with basic lifesaving medicines and equipment, including surgical and interagency emergency health kits, to ensure continued management of internally displaced patients. Other support provided by WHO include pentostam to treat leishmaniosis, training of 20 community health workers, chlorine distribution, quality water testing and vector control activities.