Refugee reporter Syrians' Health Needs

Many Syrians who have fled war have health problems. As insurance companies prepare to cover them, what many refugees need is psychological care, writes a journalist from Syria for Handelsblatt.
Many refugees who have fled war suffer from psychological trauma.

Germany’s medical system is a gift for refugees suffering from health problems.

For a long time in Syria, health insurance was only for the wealthy. Those who were unable to afford it went to the government’s clinics and hospitals where conditions were so poor, many people called them slaughterhouses. And that was before the war.

Now we see the amputated limbs and mutilated bodies on TV, the visible casualties of war. But many refugees suffer from psychological problems that are less obvious to spot.

It is difficult to put the memories of war behind you. Seeing blood, corpses and carnage is not the same as watching a movie like "Saving Private Ryan."

A few months ago, Um Hani, a Syrian woman living in Berlin, took her life by jumping from a fifth-story window at a refugee camp. She hadn’t been healthy in Syria but she wasn’t suicidal. The war changed her and though her family managed to rescue her twice from past suicide attempts, the third time she was faster.

Abdullah, a Syrian refugee who came to Germany last year, also tried to commit suicide, afraid he would nver be able to reunite his family. He took a lot of pills, but his friends saved his life at the last minute.

I'm not trying to portray refugees as people who are always thinking about suicide but many are in need of support.

Most Syrian refugees don’t put general healthcare high on their list of priorities and only go to the doctor when they are too sick to work.

Even when people seeking asylum get the food, warmth and peace they need, the distressing thoughts don't go away over night. Lying awake, beside their sleeping children, the nightmares come back, leaving parents short of breath, sweating and trembling.

Refugee children suffer too. Many can't enjoy fireworks, the loud noises are terrifying and they bury their faces in their mothers’ arms, reminded of the barrel bombs dropped by the regime’s helicopters on to civilian areas.

There are other day-to-day effects of crisis. People who flee war don’t easily shake the fear of shortage. Refugees stand in line in the supermarket buying kilos and kilos of food while Germans in the same queue might buy a couple of apples. The latter have a sense of stability and faith that stores will still be full of meat and vegetables the next day and the next. For refugees, it takes a while to relax and not pack their fridges.

In general, despite these problems, most Syrian refugees don’t put general healthcare high on their list of priorities. Many only go to the doctor when they are too sick to work.

So why are insurance companies asking the government for more money to cover refugees?

Many refugees have bad teeth. Most Syrians couldn’t afford to go to the dentist so they handled toothache the simplest way they could. Over time, people gradually lost their teeth. Now, with the government providing dental care, many are seizing the moment.

Now refugees don’t fear the dentist's clinic, I hope they get the psychiatric care they need, too.


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