Doctor Tony in Iraq: Health Promotion in Ashti Camp Part Two

My name is Tony Bruno, but they call me Dr Tony around here.

I work for EMERGENCY NGO, an Italian-based, international humanitarian organisation focused on treating civilian victims of war. While I call Calgary, Canada home, I was stationed in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq for 6 months providing care for the sick and wounded, and training local doctors in 3 refugee camps. The latest numbers I’ve read is that there are over 3.3 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Iraq, of which about 500,000 live in critical share arrangements (unsafe, unfinished buildings) and 750,000 live in some 30 refugee camps.

We currently serve around 25,000 people in 3 camps. Iraqi Kurdistan’s population of 5.2 million have opened their arms to hundreds of thousands of displaced families of different religions and ethnicities, providing housing, water and electricity services, and constructing schools, health centers, and transport offices. Can you imagine living in a place where 1 in 4 people living there is a refugee or IDP? I can because I did. The sites and stories I saw and heard daily are heart breaking. But getting to know and serve these victims and casualties of war is the reason I went to Iraq. This is my purpose and I am honored to help.

The work my colleagues and I do in Iraq is the most emotionally and spiritually demanding job I’ve ever done, but I’ve also have never been so inspired in my life. I look forward to sharing this journey with you.


This is the …GO! phase of the de-worming campaign that we, EMERGENCY implemented throughout the month of May, in Ashti camp. Alongside the structures approach mentioned in the previous update (more details here), I want to now move onto a more social dimension. It is time to give a face to some of the people who were involved in this process, be they patients or our relentless health promoters. All this because this is what EMERGENCY wants to see. Healthy kids playing or on their way to school to receive an  education.

Some children need a little more encouragement from parents 

before taking these medications from people they don’t know at their tent. Others need only a mother’s reward; a hug and a kiss and this guy is reassured. It’s only normal that these children may be skeptical at first to the arrival of new faces.


Anytime EMERGENCY staffers leave the perimeter of our brick and mortar clinic and enter into the canvas cloth world of covered tents, we are greeted with curious looks indeed. 


But what starts off as an inquisitive look, virtually always turns into a smile, once they realize there is no threat and we are here to help.

Here, camp members and Health Promoters Hussein and volunteer Bushea are dispensing the medication to a mother with children looking on. 


Again, local Health Promoter Hussein helping a father administer albendazole syrup to a reluctant child. 

Hussein and Bushea collecting demographic data prior to administering the medicine to this family. Some tents can have as many as four adults and over 20 children, so accurate documentation is key.  

Clearly we’re starting to make some friends. A group of four boys that cannot stop laughing at us. 

And a curious girl pokes her head above the tent wall on the other side to see what all the laughter is about. 

Here we see a mother with a young girl along with her two elder brother twins receiving treatment. 

Local Health Promoter Mahmood and International Nurse Lella, from Italy, are dispensing medications to a family. 


For children that are not able to take the solid pill medication, we have it in flavored syrup form. Seems to have gone down well with this boy. 

… GO-AL!!



Touchingly, an elderly woman expressing her thanks.


Thumbs up to everyone involved (Ahmed and Farhan saluting the camera). Good work!

Since the campaign ran, we have only had 4 confirmed cases of pinworm. A great success I’d say. The health promotion team really never stops working. 


Anastasia, posing proudly for this photo. 




Great job Health Promoters.



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