‘God Bless Whoever Sent Them’ Say Iraq’s Displaced
As winter brings temperatures as low as minus 5, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are sheltering in tented camps in the northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Many left the warmer south with only their summer clothes
Winter is closing in on the refugees sheltering in the semi-autonomous northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Some are from nearby but many fled the violence caused by the extremist group known as the Islamic State from warmer, southern parts of the country – and whether they managed to bring anything with them or not, they’re not prepared for the cold.
Last week 150 tons of winter clothing arrived from donors in Germany, collected from eight cities including Munich, Koblenz and Nuremberg. Campaign organisers say they distributed most of the clothing to displaced persons’ camps in the Dohuk province in Iraqi Kurdistan and around 40 tons were also sent to a camp in Sulaymaniyah.
“There are a huge number of displaced people in Iraqi Kurdistan at the moment and we are continuously trying to provide them with aid of some kind,” says Taher Rahim, one of the organizers behind the aid delivery.
The main problem facing the organizers of the clothing drive was how to transport the huge amount of apparel to Iraq. Costs were very high but the organisers put on a charity concert, which included traditional Kurdish food, a fashion show and entertainment, in Koblenz to collect the shipping costs.
There are estimated to be close to 2 million displaced people and refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan at the moment. To get the aid deliveries to the right people, families fill out questionnaires, explains Shirko Sandi, camp director in Zakho.
“This ensures that every family gets their share,” he told NIQASH.
The aid drive was not just limited to clothing. Members of Germany’s Lutheran church together with Christian aid organization, CAPNI (Christian Aid Program Nohadra), managed to collect €1 million to help those in need.
“Many of us would be dead if it were not for the clothes we have received,” says Hasso Ibrahim, a 51-year-old man from Sinjar, who’s now living in one of the Dohuk camps.
Ibrahim wasn’t sure of the names of the German organizations that had cooperated to bring the winter clothing to Dohuk. “What really matters to me is that my family is warm this winter,” he told NIQASH. “All I would say is that whoever sent this clothing, God bless them.”