accessibility & help

Red Cross treats the psychological toll of conflict in Syria

26 July 2016

Six medical facilities – five hospitals and a blood bank – were bombed in Aleppo, Syria, last weekend.

Every neighbourhood in Aleppo has come under fire over the past week and other vital infrastructure has also been hit.

Marianne Gasser, head of delegation in Syria for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said: “The situation is devastating and overwhelming. We hear that dozens of civilians are being killed every day and scores more injured from shells, mortars and rockets.

“The bombing is constant. The violence is threatening hundreds of thousands of people’s lives, homes and livelihoods.”

Donations to our Syria Crisis Appeal help to fund the work of our partner, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), which continues to help people in Aleppo despite the recent bombings. This includes running mobile medical centres that have reached more than 500 people who could not travel to other medical facilities.

Similar mobile units also work in many other parts of Syria to help meet both emergency and long-term health needs.

Thousands get essential emotional support

The mobile units and other programmes also help with another kind of need: psychological and emotional support. Living under such difficult conditions can take a terrible toll on people. For example, long periods of stress and trauma increase the risk of developing depression and anxiety.

Michael van Koesveld of the British Red Cross said: “Staff and volunteers report that Syrians seeking medical assistance often have psychological needs as well as physical problems. Red Cross research also shows that up to 40 per cent of people who come into contact with the mobile medical centres do not have physical medical conditions that need attention but are suffering psychologically.”

To help, the Red Cross and SARC have trained volunteers in how to give people much-needed psychological and emotional support. Last year, the volunteers gave this kind of help to over 9,300 people, including children, adolescents and adults.

In the first three months of 2016, 3,703 people received psychological and emotional support from SARC and over two-year project we aim to reach 31,740 people.

Training extended to medical staff

Medical staff have reported that the trained volunteers have been very useful for the people they treat. Now training will be extended to them as well, including people working in Aleppo.

SARC’s own volunteers are subjected to the stress of living and working in conflict areas as much as the people they support. So they too can access the psychological support when they need it.

Support for vulnerable children

Depending on their needs, people get psychological and emotional support for a period of one to six months.

One example is structured support groups for children aged nine to 13 where youngsters can take part in activities that help them express their feelings. The groups also help them develop coping mechanisms to deal with the crisis.

There are also support groups for mothers in which they learn about the normal phases of child development. They then work on how to address their children’s needs as every stage.

Vocational activities for adult groups help people learn skills to build self-esteem and make a living, which help people cope. Skills covered including hairdressing, first aid/nursing techniques.

Sports activities for all age groups also help bring families together for some rare fun in a supportive environment. At the same time, exercise helps to reduce stress and diffuse tensions.


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