August 23, 2013

Syrian refugees are crossing the border into Iraqi Kurdistan in huge numbers, with more than 42,300 passing through the Peshkabour border crossing since it reopened a week ago on Aug. 15. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) staff have set up health posts on both sides of the border. They are providing medical consultations and distributing water to refugees waiting to be transferred to five transit camps currently being set up in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah governorates.

“The refugees report having fled Syria from a variety of locations after hearing that the border had reopened after being closed for several months,” says Paul Yon, MSF’s head of mission in Dohuk, “but in recent days, the majority reported fleeing their homes around the city of Al-Malikiyah (also known as Derek) following sporadic aerial bombardments a few days ago.” 

On the Iraqi side of the border, MSF teams have provided more than 200 general healthcare consultations to refugees waiting to be transferred to Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. “We haven’t identified any critical health concerns so far,” says Yon. “The majority of patients are children, pregnant women and mothers who are suffering from moderate dehydration due to the long distances they’ve had to walk or the long waiting time before crossing the border. We are also seeing a lot of cases of asthma.” The number of consultations is increasing daily.

MSF’s teams are also providing medical advice to patients who need to be referred to hospital facilities. Yesterday, two wounded people crossed the border and were transferred to the hospital in Dohuk in ambulances provided by local health authorities.

On the Syrian side of the border, an MSF team has been working since Aug. 18, where it has distributed water to 6,200 people waiting to cross the border. The team will be reinforced today and will continue to provide water supplies to new arrivals, as well as monitoring refugees’ needs.

“We are monitoring the situation and we stand ready to move our health posts in order to meet the needs,” says Yon. In the coming days, MSF will also start providing general healthcare consultations to the refugees who have settled in different camps in Erbil governorate.

MSF teams have been working in Domeez refugee camp in Dohuk governorate since May 2012, home to 42,000 Syrian refugees, providing general healthcare and mental health services. MSF also plans to assess the needs of some 70,000 refugees who have settled in the city of Dohuk.

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