In the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are searching for a safe place to be sheltered from the fighting that’s enveloped the area.
They’re escaping the war in Syria or the advance of ISIS in Iraq, leaving behind their homes and facing journeys that are often hard and dangerous. “Three hundred families – more than 1,500 people in all – have just arrived here from the province of Salah-al-Din,” explained Marcello, our Program Coordinator in Iraq, back in the beginning of January as people were arriving at the Arbat camp. “They were held up for three weeks between two checkpoints in the Kirkuk area: one held by ISIS militants, and one held by Kurdish Peshmerga forces.” And the numbers continue to grow: within a few weeks, the Arbat camp has gone from 3,500 to over 16,000 inhabitants.
And thousands more are still fleeing the war, searching for help. The luckiest ones are able to stay with friends or relatives, or they rent houses or rooms in the safe areas. The others are housed in camps set up in recent months by the Kurdish authorities and international organizations. Living conditions are often difficult, there aren’t always enough tents for everyone, running water and electricity come and go, and the weather – scorching heat in the summer, freezing cold and snow in the winter – only makes things worse.
To deal with this humanitarian and health emergency, we extended our Program in Iraq back in the summer of 2014 by opening three health clinics to offer high standard, free-of-charge basic treatment to those living in the Arbat and Khanaqin camps. Many of them are children, often born right here in the camps. In addition, the two Arbat clinics provide gynecological and midwifery services for the women along with assistance for immunization, growth control and children’s nutrition.
And we haven’t stopped there: we’re currently setting up a fourth clinic in Tazade, in a camp managed by the local authorities that houses Iraqi IDPs.
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