Food relief is central to our work in northern Iraq. Following the annexation of towns and cities by Islamic State, approximately 3.06 million people were displaced from their homes, with 1.2 million living in temporary settlements. Many of them, including the Christian population, are now living in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan in the north east of the country, either in displacement camps or, in the case of the Christians, in church compounds in the city of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
While camps and compounds are relatively safe, conditions are often cramped and food has to be shipped in on a weekly and monthly basis otherwise the people there will starve. We have been feeding thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) since the crisis began and with your support will continue to do so.
IDP camps in Northern Iraq
Since the beginning of 2015 we have delivered food and water to a total of 17 IDP camps in northern Iraq. Currently, we operate in four camps – Harsham, Baharka, Debaga, and Ankawa, all located in Iraqi Kurdistan. We have also delivered food to emergency camps on the outskirts of the besieged city of Mosul, including Khazir.
Harsham – This camp is located to the north of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and was opened in September 2014, just weeks after the Islamic State incursion into northern Iraq. It is a multi-agency camp which hosts approximately 1,500 internally displaced Iraqis families. In addition to food, we have provided the camp’s only girls school with stationary and textbooks. To read more about the school click here.
Baharka – This camp is also located to the north of Erbil. The Kurdish authorities converted all kinds of buildings, including a cement factory, into temporary accommodation and shelter for the thousands of people who arrived there after the capture of Mosul by Islamic State. The camp expanded considerably in 2016 and there are now around 4,000 people living there, mostly in tents. As well as food, we provide hygiene kits. We are paying a group of IDPs in the camp to help us distribute the food.
Debaga – This camp is south west of Mosul near a town called Makhmour. It shelters approximately 30,000 people and has had to be extended twice since it was first built to accommodate the thousands of people who have fled the fighting in Mosul. We set up a kitchen in the camp in 2016 and continue to provide hot food to around 7,000 IDPs.
Ankawa – This camp is specifically for Christian IDPs and is located in a predominately Assyrian suburb north of Erbil. The camp shelters around 5,500 people, including 2,000 children. As well as food, we have provided clothes for the children attending the school there.
Helping Iraqi Christians
In 2003 Iraqi Christians numbered approximately 1.5 million. Today, there are thought to be less than 200,000. Those who remain are residing in church compounds in Erbil and IDP camps such as Ankawa and are dependent almost entirely on the good will of fellow Christians to survive. With your support, and through our partnerships with the Syrian Orthodox and Armenian churches, we are feeding 25,000 displaced Christians every month. Here is a breakdown:
- 3,500 Syrian Orthodox families are being served through the Syrian Orthodox Church in Erbil.
- 207 Armenian Christian families are being served through the Armenian Church.
- 200 Christian families are being served through other local partners on the ground.
- An additional 1,000 families (a mixture of Christians, Shabaks, Yazidis, and Muslims) are being served through our food packages project.
The food packages we distribute in IDP camps and to families living in church compounds cost £16 and comprise of oil, tea, tomato paste, white rice, brown rice, lentils, sugar, milk, tea, salt, and white beans. A typical food package is enough to feed a family of six people for one month.
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