Sexual violence: A sad reality for many
The situation makes [women] more vulnerable. We [also] see many [women] alone or [just with] their children. So, not only are they responsible for themselves, but also for their children. They are exposed to different types of risks, such as being abducted or sexually assaulted. Together with the burden of providing care for their families’ most basic needs, this makes them much more vulnerable.
[Women] are well aware that when they leave their country, they may very likely experience sexual violence. They may also witness violence, murders, or threats. They are afraid of being kidnapped or of being forcibly recruited by armed groups in their country or abroad. They also face discrimination.
We have [treated] women who reported being survivors of sexual violence on their journey after leaving their country. Unfortunately, by the time they tell us about this situation, more than 72 hours have passed, and they have not received medical attention (if survivors of sexual violence are able to seek care within 72 hours after the assault, they can receive vital medications such as emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy and post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV).
Mental health care built on trust
From the moment people started settling in the camp, MSF worked at a community and clinical level. We talk about the importance of mental health care. We do this so they are aware of the potential reactions they may have to situations that become difficult for them—that regular headaches, backaches or problems falling asleep are not normal. Having no appetite or eating only once a day is not normal. As soon as they know this, they start to become aware of these symptoms.
When they come to us, we tell them we are a neutral and impartial organization and that all the information they give us is totally confidential. We promote an atmosphere of trust for them, which helps them because the very act of talking and saying what they are feeling or what they are going through unburdens them a lot. At clinical level, individual and family interventions are carried out, and when we identify people who have developed psychiatric disorders, we offer pharmacological treatment.