Distress continues for Iraqi refugees

More than 1.8 million people have fled their homes in Iraq because of attacks by the terrorist organisation Isis. Almost half of the refugees are school-aged children. Of these domestic refugees, 860 000 have relocated to the Kurdistan region in Iraq.

The metropolis of Erbil and its suburb Ankawa, populated by Christians, has received 35 000 domestic refugees. Fida's partner church in Ankawa has organised beds for hundreds and meals for thousands of people.
Soon it will be winter in Kurdistan, when temperatures can drop to several degrees below zero. Strong winds and rain are a threat to families living in unfinished buildings and tent villages.
Pastor Ghassan says that even a pastor is sometimes left without words when faced with these sad fates.

  • One lady lost her two-month-old baby to dehydration during their escape. What can one say in that situation? I can only pray, Pastor Ghassan sighs.

"We had no time to be scared"

In one of the rooms of a house rented by the church, a family of five sits on mattresses on the floor. A ten-year-old girl feeds her baby sister from a bottle. The baby was only five days old when the family learned that the father's name was at the top of the execution list of Isis.

  • We had no time to be scared. I had just come home from the hospital with our newborn baby. My only thought was that we must get the children away quickly, the shocked mother recalls.

  • Everything we have, clothes and food, we have received from the church. We are sisters and brothers; the church is our family, the grateful father comments.
    The family was first housed in the chruches facilities. Now they are living in a house rented by the church, together with 13 other families.

  • We are quite stressed. We cannot return home and do not know what is going to happen. You cannot take anything for granted, the mother sighs in desperation.

Comforted by the message of hope

Many had to flee so quickly that they do not have their personal papers, or educational or occupational documents which would be needed to look for work.
Erbil already suffers from a high unemployment rate. With the crisis, many investors have left the city, which complicates the unemployment problem and increases the rents.

  • Many evacuees would like to leave Iraq altogether. They cannot see any future for their families in this country, Ghassan worries.
    Amidst the great human needs and challenges, the pastor sees an opportunity for the changing power of the church's message of hope.

  • We do not wish to just give out things to people. We wish to love people, and live by their side. People are looking for safety, so the churches now really have to provide safe havens.

Fida continues to support the churches aid work with donations.

This is how Fida and PMU Interlife help in Iraq:

  • Approximately 500 people have been provided with temporary housing.

  • Thousands have received food, clothing, blankets and medications.

  • 1200 families receive regular food aid.

  • The need for psychosocial support is enormous.

Photo and interview: Noomi Lind/ PMU Interlife / Sweden