16 Dec 2016 |

Mission East helped them through the winter

In December 2015, displaced Iraqi families received help to cope with the winter cold.

By Kim Wiesener, Communications Officer

Jihan, her husband and their four children live in an unfinished concrete house. The window frames are big, gaping holes, and the “entrance door” to their temporary home is a thin piece of cloth.

Many displaced Iraqis, who have fled the terrorist movement Islamic State, live like this. The big city of Kirkuk is full of them. Jihan and her family left their home city of Fallujah in 2014 and sought refuge here. At the time, there were no camps for the internally displaced, so they settled in an uninhabited – and unfinished – building as did many others.

Iraq is a country full of extremes – this goes for the weather as well. In summer, temperatures can reach 50 degrees, but winter nights can get very cold. Consequently, displaced Iraqis need help to get through the winter. In December last year, Mission East distributed cash to several families who had sought temporary refuge in Kirkuk.

Winter heating

Jihan and her family were among the recipients, and she and her three sons are happy to display what they bought for the assistance from Mission East. The goods included a heater, blankets and a carpet to cover the cold concrete floor. The children also got some winter clothes. As many Iraqis, Jihan and her family brought nothing with them when they escaped from their home town.

Islamic State were driven out of Fallujah in June 2016, but large parts of the city are completely devastated, and many displaced people have remained in Kirkuk. “They are still near,” Jihan said about the fighters of the terrorist movement, “and there are landmines in our old neighbourhood. It is dangerous to go back.”

It is uncertain how long the family can remain in Kirkuk. The Kurdish authorities who are controlling Kirkuk are planning to send internally displaced people back to cities that are deemed safe, but it is unlikely to happen before the onset of winter. If they have to stay here, they may need further assistance.

Habiba is also from Fallujah, and she and her two daughters face a similar situation. They live in an unfinished building in a different neighbourhood where many displaced people have settled. The whole area has an unfinished look with dirt roads and a lack of infrastructure. Habiba also got cash assistance from Mission East last year, and she invested some of it in a heater and blankets.

Habiba’s husband was killed by Islamic State, and although she lives with her sisters in the unfinished house, she feels quite alone: “I would like to return, but Fallujah has not been rebuilt, there are no doctors, and no market.”

So she expects to remain in Kirkuk for some time yet. If she does, Habiba is hoping for another helping hand. “Winter is coming, and my financial situation is very bad. I need more help,” she said.

This is the situation for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The number of internally displaced in the country has already reached 3.1 million people, and the Mosul offensive is expected to displace hundreds of thousands more. When winter arrives, many people like Jihan and Habiba will need help to cope with the cold nights.