A Report from the Field by Dr Sarah Ahmed

Erbil, Kurdistan

FRRME continues to provide relief for the displaced Christians, Shabak, Yazidi, and Muslims in northern Iraq. We [have] helped with the needs of many refugee camps. The needs of the camps range from water, ice and water coolers, to mattresses, blankets and pillows. Our journey started at 7 a.m., when we delivered 3,000 [loaves] of bread to “Mazar Mart Shamoni,” which hosts 2,650 displaced people, 650 of [whom] are children. The bread was served during the breakfast meal and again during dinner.

Then, we left for Al-Hikma School, where 650 displaced people have been living in classrooms for the past week. We delivered 150 kg of chicken, 60 dozen eggs, and 50 kg of potatoes and onions that were cooked and served during lunch. As we were leaving the school, we took a couple of pictures to document the misery of the people so our donors and supporters could see what the people have been going through. Suddenly, a lady cried, “Stop taking pictures. We used to live with dignity in our houses that look like palaces. But we were forced to leave because we feared the brutality of ISIS”. We assured her that the pictures are going to be used for fund-raising purposes. We really felt bad and then said sorry to her, and she excused us when we showed her the pictures; she knew we didn’t mean to demean her or the situation.

We were then contacted by Father Emanuel, who is managing Mazar Mart Shamoni. He asked us to get air [conditioners] that are needed to cool the tents, in which the displaced families were living; the air [conditioners] were for about 80 families. So we moved to the old part of Erbil where home appliances are sold to get the [A/Cs]. After finding a reliable type of cooler and paying for it, we bought 100 mattresses, 100 pillows, and 100 blankets to be provided for a new shelter that has been opened recently for Christian refugees from Mosul, in which about 70 families were living.

Around noon we received a call from the carpenter who had been making cradles for about 40 families, letting us know that they were ready. The cradles were provided for the kids from the Shabak minority in a distant camp. We took the cradles, and we headed to the camp which was 30 minutes away. As we moved, it became very windy and rained heavily for around five minutes. It was not a big deal for us. However, when we got to the camp, we were shocked by the impact the short storm had caused to the camp. The camp is located in an open, dusty area and consists of tents that are poorly supported. So when the short storm occurred, the tents were blown away, and some of them fall on the elderly and the children and caused the death of a woman, leaving all her kids behind. The refugees rushed to rescue whoever was impacted and took them to a safer place. Some of the refugees had arrived recently to the camp, so they were placed in shelters that were open [at the top], so when the storm occurred, their stuff got wet and their food got spoiled.

There are so many medical problems, and apparently, because they are living in the desert where there is no electricity, the canned food they are getting is spoiled. So many people came to us complaining of diarrhea, and vomiting. They said, “Even the food they get us is spoiled, Doctor. This is not a life.” The situation is devastating, and [we] can’t even put into words what we saw. People are dying, people are suffering, and we didn’t see any major help provided by the UN as we heard. The tents were UN-provided, but after the rain… Can’t even thank them for [that].

It was a really hard day, hearing that Amo [an elderly man who needed a wheelchair] died, this young lady died [when the tent fell on her], and seeing so much suffering. However, we were happy that we had some relief for them. We distributed the cradles and provided bags of food for more than 300 families. What made our day were the smiles that were drawn on the faces of the disabled people when we gave them the wheelchairs. One of the older disabled [persons who] never left his tent before we saw as we were leaving the camp, sitting on his new wheelchair in the main area of the camp with some friends enjoying a conversation.

We ended our day by delivering more bread for about 2,000 families for dinner. Also, making more plans for the day after.

There are so many things needed, and people are getting tired of no one doing anything. I have heard that there is so [much] aid coming in to the north, but I haven’t seen any. I have seen camps, and their misery. I have seen people dying. I have seen women who are due, and can’t even go check. I have seen everything bad, but not much good to equal it. I am hoping that more aid will come in the coming weeks. I’ll keep helping as much as I can meanwhile. I’ll keep providing for all the Christians and all the other religious minorities: Shabak, Yazidis, Ifailies, and Shia Muslims. As the representative and the Director of Operations for the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, I WON’T STOP UNTIL THE LAST DISPLACED FAMILY IN ANY OF THE CAMPS IN THE NORTH OF IRAQ IS EITHER BACK TO THEIR HOME, OR IN A BETTER PLACE. THAT IS MY PROMISE.

FRRME Provides Aid In Kurdistan

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SOMERVILLE, ME—FRRME staff are providing direct humanitarian aid to refugees in Kurdistan, including food and water, hot meals and more.

Thanks to emergency funding approved by the boards in the UK and the U.S., FRRME has been active in recent days in Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, where hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled in order to escape ISIS.

Aid is being provided to Christians and Shi’a Muslims who have poured into Kurdistan. Initially, bare essentials were delivered to refugees in settlement camps, where FRRME staff were quickly surrounded by people desperate for food and water. FRRME coordinated efforts with the largest Chaldean Catholic Church in Erbil to provide fresh bread and water to some 5,000 families being hosted by the church and later began providing three hot meals a day for nearly 15,000 refugees at the church.

FRRME has also provided humanitarian relief to Muslim refugees in the camps and in the streets of Erbil, including food and essential supplies.

In addition to its work in the north, FRRME continues to provide aid to thousands in Baghdad, including the needy and disabled children. St. George’s Church in Baghdad operates a medical and dental clinic that provides healthcare free of charge to people of all faiths, and food staples are provided to needy families on a weekly basis.

FRRME Approves Emergency Aid to Iraq

 

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SOMERVILLE, ME—In a July 16 joint meeting of FRRME America’s Crisis Management Committee and FRRME UK’s Operations Committee, members heard an urgent appeal for emergency funding for the Foundation’s work in Iraq, specifically to provide immediate aid to refugees flooding into Kurdistan.

Speaking to members by telephone from his home in the United Kingdom, Canon Andrew White, President of FRRME, addressed the need for additional funds for Christians and Muslims who have fled their homes in northern Iraq, many of whom have sought refuge in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region. ISIS extremists have given Christians in Mosul (Iraq’s second largest city) three options: convert to Islam, pay a tax as Christians or literally be put to the sword. Most Christians fled the city in response, their houses and property seized by ISIS, who marked their homes with an Arabic “N” for “Nazarene,” adding that the houses were now the property of the Islamic State.

A FRRME staffer added the report that she had visited camps near the Kurdish capital of Erbil days before where thousands of refugees were living in austere conditions. Many had not had food or water for five days.

The committees recommended approval, and the proposition was put to a vote of FRRME Board members who approved the emergency funding.

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