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Supporting mental health in Syrian refugee camps: Ahmed's story

Ahmed, 60, is a teacher living with his wife and 90-year-old mother in a refugee camp in Idlib, Syria. They were forced to flee their town after the army invaded their home. 

I began to feel anxiety and fear about three months ago due to the Coronavirus and the lack of a drug for it, and even if it was found, I think that we will be in the last ranks in the world that we will receive any medicine.

Ahmed told us that his anxiety has affected his work and that he has received warnings for this. He has also struggled to eat well, leading to health problems, complicated by his diabetes.  

Since the start of the pandemic, we have been working with our in-country partner, the Syrian Expatriate Medical Association (SEMA), to help ensure older Syrian refugees living in camps are reached with vital aid and protected from the deadly coronavirus. As part of this support, we trained and established teams of health workers to go out to internally displaced people’s camps, raise awareness of coronavirus and infection control within the community and provide ongoing support to older people during the pandemic.  

The team has worked to build a supportive relationship with Ahmed to help reduce his anxiety. Ahmed has increased insight into his situation through psychological education on anxiety and fear. He has also received training on stress management techniques, relaxation skills and problem management. 

Coping mechanisms such as walking and sports have been used in addition to enhancing social communication and utilising supportive family members. 

Ahmed is now in better control of anxious feelings and organising daily activities with an improvement in social and family relations. 

I was distracted, unhappy and scared a lot, but now I feel better and I started to feel better with exercise, walking, and exercises. After that I started to sleep better and my appetite for food improved.

He and his mother are both diabetic and when they were first displaced they faced many difficulties, with bad medical treatment forcing them to find another area to live. Ahmed is worried that they are both more at risk from coronavirus and that the medication to manage their diabetes is harder to secure. 

Learn more about our COVID-19 response in Syria.

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Help some of the world's most vulnerable older people

Thousands of older people around the world are living in refugee camps, having fled conflict at home. Now COVID-19 has made life even more desperate. Health and access to food are both under threat. You can help change this.

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Last updated: Mar 16 2021

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