Iraq crisis: Displaced children and families brace for winter

Displaced families fleeing violence in Iraq are in desperate need of food, shelter, clean water, medicine, and protection.

By Kathryn Reid, World Vision U.S., with contributions from World Vision international staff
Updated November 25, 2014 at 10:00am PST

In Iraq, displaced families fleeing violence are dreading the onset of winter cold and rains.

Displaced communities are not prepared for winter cold

Thousands of families that fled attacks have reached the Kurdish region in northern Iraq and are in need of food, shelter, clean water, medicine, and protection. In particular, these displaced families dread the onset of winter cold and rains.

World Vision-funded aid has reached more than 3,000 people. Families received foam mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits, jerry cans, clothing, baby supplies, and toys.

“This is our most pressing concern today — that displaced communities are not prepared for winter,” says Mike Weickert, World Vision response manager in Iraq. “People living in tents will be severely affected by the change of weather.

“We are distributing blankets and mattresses today,” he adds, “but more needs to be done.”

Christians, Yazidis, other minorities displaced by conflict and persecution

Christians, Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities are among the 1.8 million displaced by conflict and targeted persecution since January, according to United Nations estimates.

The Kurdish region already hosted more than 200,000 Syrian refugees, but conditions continue to worsen every day. In just one week, Iraq saw 200,000 additional people displaced.

Many displaced Iraqis arrived after grueling journeys on foot in temperatures that regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Some were forced to move several times to avoid being caught up in the violence that has forced them to flee their homes.

“Many are moving to urban centers and community buildings that are currently being used and are quickly filling up and stretched beyond their capacity,” says Kathryn Taetzsch, leader of World Vision’s global rapid response assessment team in Erbil. “They are in desperate need of food, clean water, and medicine.”

Haider and his extended family moved from town to town after fleeing their village near Mosul, in Ninevah province. They have settled for now in a school building.

“Now we have come to Sulaymaniyah,” he says. “We left Dahuk because it was too close to the opposition-controlled area and so many people were coming every day.

“We need money, food, drugs, blankets, fuel, shelter,” he says.

Displaced families ‘wish for peace and safety’

Sibaya, a member of the Yazidi religious group, told a World Vision staff member, “I have two boys; one is 3, and one is a baby. We walked from Sinjar, then through Syria, and then we were brought here (Dahuk).

“It is so hard to be here with little children,” she continued. “They are constantly sick and there are no toys for them to play with. I hope that my children will be safe. I just wish for peace and safety.”

Says Shereen, a displaced mother of three, “We can’t sustain ourselves here. We weren’t able to bring anything with us, even clothes or cash. We can’t live like this.”

Iraq reaches highest level of humanitarian need

The U.N. has declared the crisis in Iraq to be at the highest level of humanitarian emergency, on par with Syria, South Sudan, and Central African Republic.

At present, World Vision is responding to 13 humanitarian emergencies around the world, including the needs of hundreds of thousands of children and their families in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Gaza.

As with other disaster response efforts, World Vision is prioritizing the needs of children in this crisis, recognizing that they are always disproportionately affected by conflict and displacement.

“It is absolutely heartbreaking. Everyone we meet just wants to go home, but they can’t,” says World Vision’s Kathryn Taetzsch. “People are doing their best to take care of each other but they need so much, and they need it quickly.”

Learn more

How you can help

  • Pray for the children and families facing displacement and persecution. Pray that aid organizations like World Vision would be able to meed the needs of this vulnerable population. See our Iraq crisis prayer guide on World Vision magazine.
  • Make a one-time donation to help us respond to the crisis in northern Iraq. World Vision plans to aid 150,000 in six months. In collaboration with local partners, we are scaling up operations to respond to the immediate needs of displaced Iraqis, including preparations for winter weather and the need for food, healthcare, water, sanitation, and child protection.

Highlights

  • World Vision is responding to the immediate needs of displaced Iraqis who have fled attacks in northern Iraq.
  • Christians, Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities are among the 1.8 million people displaced by conflict and targeted persecution since January.
  • Displaced families are in desperate need of food, shelter, clean water, medicine, and protection.
  • Cold, wet winter weather will arrive in a few weeks, posing a hardship for families living in tents and unfinished buildings.
  • The U.N. has declared the crisis in Iraq to be at the highest level of humanitarian emergency.

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