IsraAID’s trucks bring more than 3,000 winter items for distribution to the refugee camp in Dohuk in the Kurdish Region of Iraq.
As the day begins to dispel the chill of the night, Shehab, 37, from Sinjar, joins the growing line of refugees and displaced people – excited at the prospect of finally getting some supplies to brave the bitter cold and relentless winter winds of the camp in Dohuk in the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI). IsraAID’s trucks finally arrive, IsraAID staff begin to unload the more than 3,000 winter items for this distribution.
Shehab and his family are among the more than 18,000 Yazidis and Christians now living in camps in northern Iraq, after fleeing the horrors of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). "When Daesh (ISIL) entered Sinjar we fled to mountains for seven days and took refuge in a Yazidi temple. We then found our way to this camp. We have been here for seven months. I am here with my wife and our two children – a boy 1.5 years old and a 4 month year old baby girl who was born in the camp. The life here is very hard; our children are traumatized by what they saw and experienced after Daesh (ISIL) attacked our home."
Since January 2014, more than 2.1 million people have been displaced by the military campaigns of the Islamic State, bringing the total of people needing humanitarian assistance to 5.2 million. The Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI) alone has welcomed more than 1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, and is hard pressed to meet their enormous humanitarian needs – especially during the trying winter months, with temperatures routinely dropping below 0 degrees Celsius.
"Inside the camp it’s very cold and we really need warm blankets," says Naviah, also from Sinjar. "Kerosene heaters were distributed, but many tents caught fire and people died as a result. We use one bathroom between eight families – there are too many people and not enough room or facilities for everyone. There is no school for the younger children." Shehab adds, "Our main problem is carrying the water back to our tent – there is only one place in the camp to get water and it very far. We also need health training and facilities for our families. Many people have diseases and there is no medicine or doctors."
For the lucky thousands waiting in line, the situation is about to improve. After a first humanitarian distribution in mid-October, IsraAID has continued and expand its work in the region, helping Internal Displaced Iraqi (IDPs) in need, delivering more than 3,000 winter items, including mattresses and blankets to 1,000 families. "I really appreciate all your help […] especially with your distribution of warm blankets for the winter," says Naviah, as she returns home with her hands full.
In the coming months, IsraAID looks to scale up our operation in the KRI, by continuing to distribute much needed relief items during the harsh winter and the organization will include education projects focused on children and youth to bring stability and safety to a population scarred by months of violence and chaos.
For Shehab, the future must be better: "Before ISIS attacked our home we were living safely and completely free to go about our lives. My hope for the future is to return to my home and to live freely without fear. I hope for my children to be able to sleep without fear."
IsraAID, founded in 2001, is Israel’s leading humanitarian non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to providing life-saving disaster relief and long term support. For over a decade, its teams of professional medics, search & rescue squads, post-trauma experts and community mobilizers, have been first on the front lines of nearly every major humanitarian response in the 21st century, reaching over 1 million people in 25 countries. IsraAID offers training and support programs in both developed and developing countries using Israel’s unique know-how in the fields of psychosocial support, education, agriculture and health. Today, IsraAID conducts on-going training programs in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Haiti, Kenya, Jordan and South Sudan.