Syria: "It is difficult to have hope for the future when we don’t know what will happen"

ALT Pierre-Yves Bernard/MSF

Alma is a 16 year old girl from Syria who is receiving counselling from MSF in Domeez refugee camp, northern Iraq. Her testimony is below. The war and its aftermath have had far reaching consequences for the mental health of children. As of October 2013 in Domeez, children and adolescents comprise 50 percent of all MSF’s new patients. Every week, between 15 and 20 children and adolescents aged 18 and under are admitted to the programme.

"We’ve been living in the camp for six months, after coming from Damascus to escape the war. There are six people in my family and we all live in one tent. At first we were happy to be here, and to be safe. Compared to Damascus, it is better. There we lived amidst war, at least here it is safe.

But I am not happy here. After I arrived here, when I got upset or angry, I would faint. Last week, this happened twice. In the last month, it has happened six times.

I don’t know why it happens. After I faint, and I have gained consciousness, I lie there for an hour or so then I get up. I have shortness in breath after it happens and it takes an hour to feel ok again.

Most of the time there is no reason.

I don’t sleep very well and I am scared when I sleep. When I wake up, I am still scared. I am afraid of the tents. They remind me of the funeral procession when my cousin was killed in Syria. I remember people crying and I feel that I have dark things in front of my eyes.

Every second night, I have nightmares.

I also don’t eat very much. From yesterday until now, I did not eat.

My biggest wish is to go back to Syria with my family. I want to study, but it’s not possible, either here or in Syria. It is difficult to have hope for the future when we don’t know what will happen."