Fleeing Families in N. Iraq: ‘A privilege to serve’

CGR

Wed Oct 08 2014 14:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

IRAQ - An estimated 1.8 million Iraqis have so far been displaced this year, according to the UNHCR. They continue to be in desperate need for emergency provisions, and with supplies at lows, winter is also soon approaching. According to officials in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, “At least 41,000 Iraqis, including Arabs, Christians and other minorities, have fled into the region to escape armed groups that recently took over the northern city of Sinjar and other neighbouring communities. Iraqi Kurdistan is already home to more than 300,000 Iraqis displaced since June, and a further 220,000 Syrian refugees. The pressure is growing on the region’s already limited resources.”

IRAQ - An estimated 1.8 million Iraqis have so far been displaced this year, according to the UNHCR. They continue to be in desperate need for emergency provisions, and with supplies at lows, winter is also soon approaching. According to officials in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, “At least 41,000 Iraqis, including Arabs, Christians and other minorities, have fled into the region to escape armed groups that recently took over the northern city of Sinjar and other neighbouring communities. Iraqi Kurdistan is already home to more than 300,000 Iraqis displaced since June, and a further 220,000 Syrian refugees. The pressure is growing on the region’s already limited resources.”

Reporting from the field, CGR President Abraham Shepherd shares about a family whose escape from ISIS would be even more difficult than most:

Owning a business with cattle and chickens in northern Iraq, the father provided for his family. However, when ISIS began shelling their neighbourhood, he and his family had to flee into the night like everyone else. Unlike everyone else, they had four children with disabilities. A daughter who is blind… another with epilepsy. And two sons with muscular dystrophy.

They walked for three hours to the relative safety of a nearby city. Meanwhile, 70 people from their town were kidnapped by the extremists, with their fate remaining unknown. “When I met this family, they had taken shelter with seven other families, 30 people in total,” Abraham shares. “When you visit with these forcibly displaced families, you are struck that they come from different segments of society – a policeman, a working mother, a nun – yet they all shared the same story of pain and suffering. Escaping through the night, they left with nothing.

“When we met them, they had been displaced for one month, and only one food basket been given to them.”

CGR relief teams on the ground have found many families like these, pooling their resources to rent a house or apartment. “At times as many as 90 people are crammed into one space, and they generally have gone unnoticed by relief groups who focus their aid deliveries on the big refugee camps.”

Yet even in the camps, conditions are difficult.

“We ended one day with a visit to a Syrian refugee camp,” Abraham said. “It has become a small city. You can smell the stench of the sewage, running from the many public toilets scattered throughout the camp.”

Some of those families had been stuck in that camp for three years while the crisis back home grinds on, Shepherd shares.

“We learned that if you’ve been a long-term refugee, you have the right to be ‘upgraded’ to a tent with a concrete floor, and then later you will be allowed to build a structure on the same spot, instead of the tent,” Shepherd said. “But they have had three years of living in tents, with no one finding a permanent solution to their problem. They are tired waiting for a country to accept them. They are depressed. Their kids are undernourished. They just want to go home.”

“It’s a privilege to serve here in tough places, touching people’s lives in a way that will have lasting impact,” Abraham concluded. “We have been able to have access to places no one has reached – and to people’s lives – in an amazing way.”

Thank you for your generosity in partnering with CGR in making a difference in the Middle East. Crucial donations for the relief effort are coming from our Iraq Crisis and Global Hunger Fund, which will continue to be highlighted as we approach World Hunger Sunday on October 12.