AA&D partners with interdisciplinary team to support displaced families in Iraq

AA&D is among a team of researchers and global health practitioners who have partnered across North Carolina and Iraq to improve the delivery of critical health services for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Iraq.

This research project, “Closing the Delivery Gap for Internally Displaced Mothers and Children in Fragile Contexts: Perinatal Mental Health, Infant Feeding Practices and Malnutrition in Iraq,” seeks to understand and improve mental health services for Yazidi mothers and children who have been displaced by conflict in the country. Yazidis are an ethno-religious minority who have suffered extensively in past and ongoing conflicts in Iraq. Currently, most of the population is in displacement camps in Iraqi Kurdistan, and they lack access to basic services including medical care. The immediate and lasting effects of trauma are well-documented among the Yazidis, especially among women and mothers, yet there is little work being done to address this urgent need.

Alongside AA&D and included in this team are Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist, a UNC Chapel Hill assistant professor of maternal and child health and member of the Carolina Breastfeeding Institute, and Dr. Dilshad Jaff, adjunct assistant professor of maternal and child health and program coordinator for solutions to complex emergencies in the UNC Gillings School’s Research Innovation and Global Solutions Office. In Iraq, Dr. Pegah Seidi and Nazdar Qudrat Abas, both of the University of Garmian College of Education’s Department of Psychology, will collaborate in this project’s research and in-country implementation among IDP camps.

The goal of this project is to gather evidence of the ongoing trauma and mental health concerns among this population while prioritizing maternal and infant health in a complex emergency setting. This research will translate to more inclusive health delivery pathways that integrate maternal and child health with important, but overlooked, mental health support for severely traumatized mothers and infants.

“We are honored to take part in this work with UNC and Garmian University, to understand how to support these communities that have been through so much suffering and strife in recent years. This is a modest first step to identify how to assist in the provision of health care and social services to these Iraqi communities, in a spirit of solidarity and respect,” says Tom Nicholson, AA&D executive director.

A news announcement for this project from UNC Gillings School of Public Health can be found here, and an announcement from the Duke Center for International Development here.