May 6th commemorates National Nurses Day, established to raise awareness of the important role nurses play in society. For AMAR, our team of nurses are essential to ensuring access to quality healthcare for hundreds of thousands of underserved patients each year. To all our AMAR nursing staff – and to nurses around the world – thank you for your tireless efforts to make our communities healthier.
Pictured above: Nurses Siham and Katrin of AMAR’s primary healthcare center at Mamillian Camp.
In the Iraqi governorates hardest hit by the three-year conflict with ISIS, 14 hospitals and more than 170 health facilities have been damaged or completely destroyed. Many of the water and energy systems that power these facilities are also in urgent need of repair. But the impact of the crisis reaches beyond structural damages.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis suffered severe physical injuries, and millions more face the invisible scars of trauma and mental distress. More than 2.4 million Iraqis are still displaced and need direct healthcare, while an estimated 3.3 million have returned home to areas where health systems need to be entirely rebuilt.
In displacement camps and other areas lacking medical facilities, such as the outskirts of Mosul, AMAR’s medical teams are hard at work bringing quality healthcare to those most in need. At the core of these efforts are the incredible nurses who work tirelessly to triage patients, administer vaccinations, and provide additional psycho-social support.
Swaromer (above) saw the growing need for healthcare resources while working as a nurse at AMAR’s primary healthcare center in Qaymawa Camp – a displacement camp established for families escaping Mosul in fall 2016. A resident of the neighboring town of Baradash, Swaromer had his own bags packed and was prepared to flee if the fighting drew any nearer.
Despite his fears, he ultimately chose to stay so that he could help the families that had no other option but to run.
“It breaks my heart that so many people had to flee their homes,” Swaromer said. “I’m so lucky that I was able to stay, and this is why I have to help. I feel that my work is important.”
Approximately 60 miles east at AMAR’s Baharka health center in Erbil, Tawaf shares Swaromer’s passion for helping the displaced. Tawaf (below) works as both a nurse and a social worker in one of the health center’s mobile clinics. In this role, she travels outside the camp in a mobile health unit to provide psychological care to people who have been deeply traumatized by ISIS.
Tawaf is no stranger to trauma. As a Yazidi from Sinjar, she was forced to flee the region after ISIS attacked in 2014. Tragically, several of her relatives were killed, captured, or injured in the fighting. In spite of the pain caused to her and her family, Tawaf uses this experience to connect with her patients. As an AMAR nurse, Tawaf serves displaced families from all over Iraq, many of them with religious backgrounds different than her own. Sometimes people are wary of her because she is a Yazidi, but that doesn’t stop her.
“These families have suffered greatly, just like my own,” Tawaf said. “And this is what keeps me going.”
Over time, Tawaf has built up trust among the communities that she serves. She believes they no longer see her as a Yazidi or even an outsider, but rather, as a neighbor.
For AMAR nurses Karima and Nada (below), being a “neighbor” to their patients has both a figurative and a literal meaning. Karima and Nada are also from Sinjar, and fled to Khanke Camp in Dohuk to escape violence in their home villages. For both women, living and working in the camp is a daily struggle.
“For both of us, life is hard now,” said Nada. “We live in tents and sleep on the floor on very thin mattresses. We don’t know what our futures will bring. Here, it’s really difficult to imagine beyond today.”
Despite the hardship of camp life, however, Nada and Karima are thankful for what they have and the opportunity to help others.
“Yes, life is difficult here in the camp,” said Karima. “But in some ways, it’s better than Sinjar. Even before ISIS, we never had healthcare as good as this.”
Together, AMAR’s nurses are working to heal Iraq from the ground up. And in doing so, they are also finding healing for themselves.
“AMAR has provided us with work and gives us opportunities to train and learn new skills,” said Nada. “This helps us get through the day because we know we are helping others while also helping ourselves.”