As summer comes to a close and colder temperatures approach, Iraqi refugees will increasingly rely upon the international community to meet their needs, an aid worker on the ground in Kurdistan said.
Kris Ozar, head of programming for Catholic Relief Service Egypt, has been traveling back and forth from Erbil, where CRS is working to help the refugees there who are in great need.
Ozar voiced concern that public authorities lack a plan for the internally displaced persons.
“Nobody knows what to do at the moment, but there are 1.2 million internally displaced persons, according to United Nations data,” he told CNA Aug. 20. “These people are in need of everything. They don’t just need food clothing, water, food, i.e. the essential needs. We should remember that winter is coming and that they cannot sleep in the open air.”
More than 70,000 Christians have been displaced to Erbil from their homes in Mosul, Bakhdida, and other towns in Nineveh Province by the advent of the Islamic State, a recently established caliphate that has persecuted all non-Sunnis in its territory, which extends across swaths of Iraq and Syria.
Ozar recounted his experience in Erbil: “I saw tens of thousands of people sleeping under the open sky, in fear. They sleep in precarious hygienic conditions, they fear everything.”
He described the people who have fled as “families, normal people.”
Among the people he met in Erbil was a man named Bashar. Like many other, Bashar now sleeps on the ground, possessing nothing but the clothes he was wearing when he fled his home. He has collaborated with CRS on several occasions and shared a video on his phone of the 10-hour journey to Erbil.
Ozar explained that “Catholic Relief Service is providing short term, mid-term and long term assistance. For the long term, we must build shelters for these people, since winter is coming.”
However, the agency will not be able to provide the necessary aid without international help.
“We need funds,” he stressed. “We need 7 million dollars to be able to provide supplies as well as a shelter, but we need the international community to immediately transfer the money, to let us work. Help is needed now.”