In Tal Afar district, north-west of Mosul, the lack of functional medical facilities is preventing the population from accessing healthcare. Médecins Sans Frontières has been expanding its activities in the area, opening a maternity clinic in October last year and recently a stabilisation unit and children’s ward in the village of Tal Maraq. Médecins Sans Frontières started working in the area in 2015 because many medical structures were completely destroyed and those only partially damaged lacked the basic medical material, drugs and human resources.
“The region here is visibly affected by conflict,” says Andrew Cullen, Médecins Sans Frontières Field Coordinator. “Some places seem untouched, while others are completely destroyed. Although there has been no active fighting for more than 18 months, the population has difficulties accessing healthcare.” People in the area travel over 100 kilometers to the nearest urban areas of Dohuk and Zakho to seek specialized medical care. A long trip that is not only too expensive for most but impossible for many. As a consequence, medical emergencies can become very critical. “We have started by providing care through mobile clinics and then we identified the need to assist women in their deliveries. When we had to refer critical cases to other hospitals for surgeries, for example, we understood what people endured to reach the nearest hospital. The need for stabilization and emergency care was obvious.”
"People in the area travel over 100 kilometers to the nearest urban areas of Dohuk and Zakho to seek specialized medical care. A long trip that is not only too expensive for most but impossible for many"
Médecins Sans Frontières' mobile medical teams have been running clinics in three villages in Tal Afar district since January 2015, providing general healthcare, mental health support, sexual and reproductive healthcare, and treatment for chronic diseases. In October last year the activities expanded and Médecins Sans Frontières opened a maternity clinic in Tal Maraq. From the opening of the clinic until February this year, the teams assisted more than 500 deliveries in the Tal Maraq maternity, and a similar number of emergency referrals were done to Zakho.
In March 2017, Médecins Sans Frontières added an inpatient department for pediatric cases in the same building, as well as a stabilisation unit for adults with life-threatening conditions. This is in anticipation of a potential influx of people fleeing from the military campaign in the cities of Mosul and Tal Afar, and to address the current lack of secondary healthcare facilities in the area. “The original plan was to open only a maternity,” says Ileana Boneschi, sexual and reproductive health manager in Tal Maraq, “but with the stabilisation room and the pediatric inpatient department this is becoming a real hospital.”