Water and Laughter in Iraq

More than 3.2 million people are currently displaced from their homes because of violence in Iraq. Of that total, about one third are living in unsafe, unsuitable shelters, where access to clean drinking water and basic hygiene supplies is severely limited.

That need is especially urgent in Aliawa Camp in northern Iraq, and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is responding there, in collaboration with partner GlobalMedic. and local partners,.

A recent UMCOR grant to GlobalMedic allowed it, along with local partners Barzani Charity Foundation (BCF) and Muslim Aid Iraq (MAIRQ), to distribute family emergency kits to 1,087 families (some 5,447 individuals) in the camp. Kits included a Rainfresh household water-purification unit, two tubes of toothpaste, and 12 bars of soap. GlobalMedic also delivered 90 winterization kits to vulnerable persons in the camp.

The entire distribution was a great success. GlobalMedic, BCF, MAIRQ, and Aliawa Camp management all played a big role in managing the large crowds that came out for the event. Women-led households, persons living with disabilities, and those who had not yet received access to aid or services were among those preselected to receive the emergency kits.

As part of the distribution, the partners provided beneficiaries with hands-on demonstrations of the kit contents to ensure they were well-versed in the assembly, maintenance, and use of the Rainfresh units and in the use of the hygiene supplies they received.

*A smile spreads unexpectedly

An eight-year-old girl and her mother were among those attending the distribution (they asked that their names not be used in this story). GlobalMedic included the little girl in their demonstration of the Rainfresh units and other supplies. This would allow her to have an interactive learning experience and also to feel part of the presentation.

The shy girl was a quick learner. At the end of the demonstration, she could assemble and disassemble the Rainfresh unit without any problem. Then, during the hands-on portion, when all the beneficiaries had a chance to assemble their units, she offered guidance and even helped some camp members in need of support to assemble their Rainfresh units. With her help, and that of GlobalMedic and MAIRQ, all of the beneficiaries learned to assemble and care for their Rainfresh units.

Through an interpreter, the young girl’s mother shared with GlobalMedic and MAIRQ staff how happy her daughter was to be a part of this event. She explained that the girl’s father had died recently and she had become reclusive. But she was curious about the humanitarian organizations visiting the camp, and she was thrilled when GlobalMedic called on her to assist with the distribution. The other children, seeing her play a helping role, became interested and gathered around her, and eventually, they all began to play and laugh together.

This little girl was a great addition to the distribution. To learn that her involvement had not only the intended result of ensuring that her family would have a constant supply of safe drinking water and access to essential hygiene items but, also, the unanticipated result of positively affecting her social and psychological well-being at a traumatic time, was extremely rewarding for all, especially for this young girl and her mother.

Your gift to UMCOR International Disaster Response, Advance #982450, supports UMCOR’s work with its partners around the world, alleviating suffering in times of crisis or emergency.

*This story is based on reporting by UMCOR partner GlobalMedic.