How Amena Rebuilt Her Health and Confidence

As a child, Amena’s life changed forever. A rocket shell hit her, leaving her with blind in one eye and with severe scarring on her face. By age 20, she was struggling with both her physical and mental health. Our European Union-supported team was there to help.

After 13 years of war, 16.7 million Syrians are estimated to require humanitarian assistance in 2024. High levels of internal displacement and poverty have been compounded by limited access to safe water and growing food insecurity. Today, about 90% of Syrian families live in poverty.

Internally displaced people are particularly vulnerable. Their access to basic services such as healthcare is limited because of factors such as damage to the country’s health system, lack of resources or their geographical distance from health facilities. Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services are also limited, despite the high proportion of the population that requires assistance. According to UNHCR, one in every 10 Syrians experiences a mild to moderate mental health condition, while one in 30 experiences a more severe condition.

When she just was 14 years old, Amena’s life changed forever. A rocket shell hit her, causing a serious head injury and blinding her in one eye. Later, the injuries meant her left hand had to be amputated. The attack also left her with severe scarring on her face, which was noticeable even after multiple reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries.

With her sister and three brothers, Amena left her home in Douma to seek safety in Misraba. This meant leaving behind her school. Amena never finished grade 8 and didn’t return to school when she settled in Misraba. But she loved writing and drawing, and continued to do this even after leaving school.

Years later, her difficult experiences continued to take a toll on Amena. By age 20, she was struggling with both her physical and mental health. She had symptoms of depression, and the head injury made her forgetful and unable to concentrate. Her self-esteem and confidence were low. She felt like people stared at the scar on her face.

With the support of the European Union, International Medical Corps has been providing MHPSS, child protection (CP) and gender-based violence (GBV) services in Rural Damascus (Dummar and Misraba), and Dara’a (Masmiyyeh and Deir al-Bakht). Our goal is to reduce suffering and improve mental health and psychosocial well-being in these areas through community outreach; awareness-raising on prevailing mental health, CP and GBV issues; and focused individual support, such as psychological counselling.

One of the ways we provide these services is through a mobile medical unit that regularly visits rural areas. On a visit to Misraba, the mobile medical team met Amena. She admitted that she needed help. The International Medical Corps case manager carried out a bio-psychosocial assessment and realised Amena could benefit from an intervention plan that would increase her self-esteem and confidence by focusing on her strengths. The plan was multifaceted and involved one-to-one counselling sessions as well as referrals to other services.

With a referral from her case manager, Amena visited a doctor at a nearby primary healthcare facility supported by International Medical Corps. We provided money for her transportation to ensure she received continuous monitoring and follow-ups on her condition.

As part of the intervention plan, the case manager also referred her to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Prosthetics Department, where the team took her measurements and manufactured a prosthetic for her left arm. To address her facial scarring, the case manager referred her to a dermatologist for prescriptions of medication and ointments.

Finally, the case manager recommended the women’s and girls’ safe space at Beit Sahm, where Amena could enroll in a drawing course. Her family was skeptical about the time she would spend on the course and the cost of transportation, but the case manager advocated for her, explaining that it would help her by encouraging her love of drawing.

In their one-to-one sessions, the case manager emphasised the importance of improving Amena’s confidence, of managing stress and of thinking more positively. The case manager taught Amena to identify and modify thought patterns so that they would no longer overwhelm her. Amena also learned to recognise the link between her daily activities and her patterns of emotions. Through setting goals and participating in activities she enjoyed and felt competent at—such as drawing—Amena was able create a positive cycle of enthusiasm and motivation.

Over time, it made a difference. Amena has started drawing, writing and painting more often—activities that bring her joy and confidence. She still struggles with the physical and mental impacts of her injury and displacement, but thanks to the techniques and referrals provided by the case manager, she now feels more able to cope with them.