An urgent appeal from Mike Simpson, our CEO
There is rising anxiety in the UK, Europe and the USA about Coronavirus. We do not know how things will unfold. Experts in the field of virology warn of ‘worst case scenarios’. The potential impact on our lives could be severe for a period of weeks or months. Stock markets have also been hit. This is not good news.
But at least in the UK we have a resilient and comprehensive health service. We generally have warm and comfortable homes. We have reliable communications to keep in touch with friends and relatives.
Imagine that you have none of these things because you are a refugee. You have been driven from your home by ISIS. You have lost everything. Some of your relatives might be dead. You have been separated from brothers, sisters or parents. Now you are vulnerable and dependent on charitable and church support.
Fear among the refugees
In Jordan we support well over 6,000 Iraqi Christian refugees. These families are hugely reliant on the support we provide, alongside local Jordanian churches. They have no free health care, only what we and other charitable bodies can provide.
The media in Jordan are reporting that 59 people are in quarantine. Our Country Director in Jordan spoke to me yesterday. She told me that the refugees there are very afraid, because of the large percentage of elderly and sick people among them. They believe that once the virus has spread into their communities it will be very hard to contain. Our Director told me that there is real panic developing. We hope that it will not be necessary to temporarily close our Olive Tree Centre, but we are obviously concerned. We are taking every precaution necessary to protect the most vulnerable.
Iraq Health Care Miracle
In Iraq most people have no free access to medicines and health care is patchy at best. Thousands of people rely on the medical clinic run by a local church. Amazingly this clinic provides a wide range of health care services free to everyone regardless of religion. This is nothing short of a miracle in Iraq.
I am, of course, speaking about the incredible work of the St George’s Clinic in Baghdad. We are its main funders.
Message from Baghdad
On 3rd March I received this message from Canon Faez Jirjees…
People visiting our church compound are divided into two groups, first group wearing face masks while the 2nd group behaving like normal.This week the ministry of education advised all schools to go on forced holiday as a conservative step… St. George’s clinic is running as usual and the number of visitors hasn’t changed. Some of the patients wear face masks, while other believe Coronavirus can’t be in Iraq as a disease…We don’t know what is next. Iraq now has 26 cases infected by Coronavirus: 13 Baghdad, 5 Kirkuk, 5 Suliaminiya, 4 Najaf, 2 Babil and 1 in Misan. Blessings Faez
Since I received that message Iraq has reported its first three deaths from the virus, including the Imam of a Mosque. The total cases have also increased substantially. The Iraq government have also suspended trade with Iran its neighbour, where the virus seems to be rampant. Religious authorities in Iraq’s Shiite holy city, Karbala, have cancelled Friday prayers for the first time to mitigate the risk of contagion.
In northern Iraq, schools are closed and the Kurdistan region has shut its borders with neighbouring Iran. This week our Programme Manager there has visited one of the refugee camps there to assess needs.
In Iraqi Kurdistan there are huge numbers of refugees, including over 250,000 from Syria and approximately 1.4 million displaced Iraqis. If the virus gets into the refugee camps here it will be disastrous.
If we in the UK and USA are anxious about Coronavirus, imagine how the people we support in Jordan and Iraq are feeling.
Vital Health Care
We launched an appeal last month for St George’s in Baghdad. We have received some generous donations and many people have increased their standing orders. But we are still quite a long way from reaching the £50,000 we need to maintain our level of support for St George’s Clinic at this troubling time. May I ask you to please consider supporting the Clinic? We also urgently need thousands of dollars to support women and children in the Bardarash refugee camp in northern Iraq.
Please help if you can
Please consider making a one-off or regular donation
You can make a donation via our donate page. You will find numerous options for how to donate, as well as our bank details should you wish to set up a standing order. Alternatively, you can send us a cheque made out to ‘FRRME’ to: FRRME, PO Box 229, Petersfield, Hants, GU32 9DL, United Kingdom. American supporters wishing to make a donation can do so here.