Saleem is your average ten-year-old boy who likes playing soccer and running around. But three years ago, while his family was fleeing from Mosul, IS fighters caught up to them. They took his father aside and gave him an ultimatum: either convert to Islam immediately or come with them. In order to protect his family, Saleem's father chose to leave his loved ones. No one has seen or heard from him since.
"They took his father aside and gave him an ultimatum: either convert to Islam immediately or come with them."
On Tuesday, December 13, GAiN's DART (Disaster Assistance and Response Team) members arrived on location near Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan to distribute emergency relief to IDPs (Internally Displaced People) and refugees, people like Saleem and his family, from Mosul and Baghdad.
The team is distributing more than 1000 mattresses, blankets and pillows to people entering the Debaga refugee camp with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. They are also preparing to distribute food packages in Al-Karma and Al-Amal within the next few days.
Since October 17, 90,100 people have been displaced from Mosul and have fled to Erbil and Ankawa with the need for food, water and non-food essentials, such as warm clothes and heaters to get through the cold Iraqi winter.
Team members attended a women's meeting with a local partner at an "improvised container church" outside of Erbil. About 60 women gathered to hear from a psychologist, who has worked with refugees for years, on dealing with suffering and pain. The psychologist not only spoke on scientific matters, but also shared her personal story about finding hope in Jesus. There, team members helped distribute Christmas gifts in the form of cookies, bringing a bit of light and normalcy to a dark situation.
As of now, the end is nowhere in sight. There is still a great need for daily essentials (food, water, shelter and clothing) and the urgency of the needs has only intensified, as winter has arrived.
While Canadians experience cold winters, those in Iraq without shelter and proper clothing are at great risk. Providing fuel for heating, blankets and heaters are a high priority, as more than half of people displaced are children under 18-years-old.
Rick from the Netherlands was in Erbil in 2014 to distribute relief in refugee camps. Upon his return, he made a hopeful observation:
"Two years ago the whole city was crowded with improvised refugee camps. In almost every school building, park or church you could find a refugee camp. By now, a lot of these camps are gone. People have found shelter in houses or the refugee camps are transformed to long-term facilities. Tents are replaced by containers and in the unfinished buildings there are apartments built in. It still doesn't meet my conditions for having a decent life, but it is intriguing to see how people are able to fall down four times, but stand up five. Even coming from the most miserable circumstances people manage to make the best out of their lives."
"...it is intriguing to see how people are able to fall down four times, but stand up five. Even coming from the most miserable circumstances people manage to make the best out of their lives."
We still have matching funds available up to the end of the year, which doubles every gift given, and our plan is to continue working with our local partner into the New Year.
If you want to get involved with our relief work in Iraq, click here.
*Name changed for safety reasons.