Conscience International has just returned from Kurdistan, Iraq where the team evaluated conditions and offered assistance to refugees in seven of the 34 migrant camps located in the Kurdish-controlled zone near Erbil and Dahuk. Most refugees who have relocated here were forced to flee their homes in the wake of the capture and occupation of Mosul by ISIS in June, 2014. Now they are struggling for survival in make-shift tents, unfinished buildings, and on the city streets where some are begging and others are struggling to find any kind of work.
This is the second trip to the area in six months undertaken by Conscience International President Dr. James Jennings who, upon his return, announced plans to support development of a mobile clinic to serve several of the camps. He was accompanied this time by Conscience International's Middle East Program Director Cliff Gardner, Senior Administrative Manager of Research in the Department of Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
Throughout the area families are encamped in situations far from adequate, they noted. Even basic needs to support life for long are often missing.
In one camp refugees are existing in Quonset hut tents made of steel pipe frames with plastic covers made of 3-ply plastic. In another, they are trying to survive in an unfinished building that was designed to be a shopping mall. In still another 175 families are 'housed' in an unfinished hotel structure with six floors and no walls with each family of five living in a single curtained-off 'room'. There is no steady supply of water and each family receives only 60 liters of kerosene for heating and cooking, one bag of food and a single hygiene kit each month.
An existing mobile clinic is made from a container ingeniously adapted for use as a medical facility but it operates only three days per week until noon because of the limited supply of medicine and lack of volunteer medical staff. On a typical day the clinic serves as many as 100 refugee patients. Doctors, nurses and supplies are desperately needed so the facility can stay open longer and serve more people.
While at least one camp visited has established a hospital and another has a women's program for sewing, cooking, hairdressing and cosmetology training classes, and some are able to send children to part-time government schools, everyone suffers from the cold, dearth of nourishing food, and proper hygiene. Throughout the camps, however, is the desperate need for critical care medical aid. Supplies to treat more serious cases like diabetes and heart disease are lacking or missing altogether. Medical care for pregnant women is deficient and the fear of becoming pregnant because of that is found throughout the camps.
Some 5.2 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection from violence in Iraq, including 1.7 million under the control of ISIS. In addition to displaced Iraqis, there are 225,000 Syrian refugees who have fled to Iraq.
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