As one of a few female mental health professionals in Syria’s Idlib province, Abeer al-Faris has her work cut out for her.
Every day, she gets up at the crack of dawn to manage the Dar al-Amal Education Village, an independent care centre for widows and orphans of war.
The Village is one of a few sanctuaries in Atmeh, a small but growing town in northern Idlib, where residents receive free healthcare, education and counseling.
But managing a mental health facility in a warzone, as Abeer explains, is not for the faint hearted. As well as a lack of funding, resources and skilled personnel, Abeer also has to battle conservative opinions on her work.
“The biggest difficulty has been getting around without a male guardian,” she says, “I’ve tried to persuade them that there’s no religious objection for women to work but it’s hard for society to accept this view.”
After years of civil war in Syria, Idlib is the last remaining rebel-held territory in the country.
Ongoing violence throughout 2020, has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their homes to IDP camps in northern Idlib, compounding the already disastrous humanitarian situation. And residents are facing a critical lack of access to quality primary health care – especially mental health services.
According to The World Health organisation, one in thirty people suffer from severe mental health conditions. While one in five have ‘mild to moderate’ conditions, such as depression.
“Behind each of these doors, there’s a story of tragedy,” Abeer admits, “But it’s also a story of hope,” she says, smiling.
Director: Horia El Hadad
Producer: Horia El Hadad, Ahmad AlKhatib
Camera: Horia El Hadad, Michael McEvoy
Translator: Noha Aboelenien
Editor: Horia El Hadad, Ala Alhussan, Andrew Phillips
Executive Producer: Andrew Phillips
Special thanks: Fiona Lawson-Baker, Reem Haddad, Ingrid Falck