Illnesses Outpace Supplies for Iraqis Fleeing Islamic State
November 13, 2014
A young girl in northern Iraq suffered infection and fever when a nail penetrated her foot.
As night-time temperatures begin to drop, locally-based aid workers report that illness is deepening the gloom for many Internally Displaced People (IDPs) already discouraged at the lack of prospects for returning home.
“The needs are great, and the displaced feel very disappointed,” said the director of an Iraqi ministry providing aid in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region. “They thought they would return to their homes within days, but the wait is getting longer. Now they know they will not return soon, and their condition is worsening with the onset of winter and the low level of aid.”
In Erbil, Dohuk and Zakho, where people arrived when Islamic State (ISIS) militants drove them from their homes in Mosul and other areas of Iraq, IDPs are suffering acute respiratory infections, flu and severe cases of diarrhea, among other ills. They need medicines for these sicknesses, as well as antibiotics, treatment for burns, and drugs for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
The indigenous ministry would buy the medicines locally if it had the funds to do so.
“One young child had a nail penetrate her foot because she does not have shoes, causing many infections in her body, and she suffered from high temperatures,” he said. “I bought an antibiotic for her, and that’s all I could do. There are very large needs, as the number of children is huge, and the list of patients is in excess of 200 children in each compound.”
Another child had an ear infection that led to swelling on the left part of her head, and it prohibited her from speaking. “And the list goes on,” he said.
A United Nations spokesman said this week that illnesses, especially among children, are expected to spike when winter brings temperatures below freezing to hundreds of thousands of people in the high-altitude areas of Kurdistan.
The ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission has been distributing blankets and heaters to the people who have taken refuge in concrete buildings under construction and those living in tents and other outdoor areas.
Yazidis, members of a minority religion blending Christian, Islamic and Zoroastrian rituals, along with nominal members of historic churches and Muslims, are among those receiving aid and opportunities to hear the message of Christ’s saving sacrifice.
The last few visits to the displaced Yazidis showed a long list of sick people, and most of them were kids. Their family can’t afford to take them to hospitals, and they have no medications.
In Duhok churches have provided volunteer doctors who are willing to help once they have supplies.
“We have two volunteer doctors so far, and we believe there are more who want to help – even volunteer doctors from around the world who want to visit and help for a while,” he said.
In Erbil, Duhok, Zakho and surrounding villages, the ministry in the past three months has distributed about $5,000 in medications; 3,500 mattresses at a cost of about $70,000; 3,500 blankets at a cost of about $35,000; 1,000 heaters costing $30,000; 2,000 food boxes for 2,000 families at $25 each, or $50,000; 1,000 meals and sandwiches for $2 each, or $2000; 10,000 Bibles, tracts, children’s Bibles, coloring books for $5000; 10,000 radios and Bible audio players for $5,000;
More funds for heaters and blankets, foods and medications are needed.
A leader for another ministry supported by Christian Aid Mission said he saw 1,000 people packed into an unfinished building in Erbil.
Blankets purchased for people in this tent will help them survive cold nights.
“Living in a construction site, many suffer from sinus infections and skin and eye problems,” he said. “They have nothing. They share a tank of gas to cook their meager meals.”
The streets of Erbil are lined with children begging for money and food. Displaced families are everywhere – in tents and churches and unfinished buildings.
Many of the displaced people are doctors, engineers, business owners and professionals who have lost everything to ISIS.
Some of them walked for days to make it to Erbil and Duhok. The leader shared, “Our people feel very grateful and appreciative for the assistance you offer them. And while it’s difficult for us to mention our sources of assistance for many reasons, such as our work with Muslims, everyone, without exception, saw the love of God that appeared in the giving, which was a blessing for the salvation of many.”