As air strikes against Islamic State militants keep the conflict in Syria and Iraq in the headlines, distribution of ShelterBox tents continues in Iraqi Kurdistan, to which more than 800,000 displaced people have fled.
Few of us will have forgotten the terrible images from last August of the plight of 40,000 people from Iraq’s minority Yazidi community trapped on Mount Sinjar after being driven from their homes by Islamic State fighters. Those that managed to escape sought refuge in the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) in the north east of the country.
The KRI is now sheltering more than half of the 1.7 million internally displaced Iraqis and Syrian Kurds who have been forced from their homes by the regional conflict. That’s around 145,000 families looking to the KRI government and international aid agencies for help.
Many families are staying in unfinished buildings, or in mosques, churches and schools. The latter is particularly problematic since, with the start of the new academic year in mid September, people sheltering in educational establishments have had to be relocated.
Responding to this need, around 540 ShelterBox tents have been distributed in the last two weeks, the majority near Dohuk in the northern part of the KRI, which has the largest concentration of displaced persons. A further 1,388 tents are awaiting distribution, some of which will also be going into the north of the country while others are destined for central and eastern areas of Kurdistan.
This is a complex and difficult situation. ShelterBox operations coordinator, Malcolm Shead commented:
‘We’re not sure exactly when the remaining distributions will take place. It’s a slow process as we have to resolve issues around land ownership, sanitation and hygiene and camp management.’
However, ShelterBox is working with partners to reach the families in need. For example, we are cooperating closely with French aid agency ACTED, which is well-established in Kurdistan. We have also supplied a number of tents to medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres for use as mobile clinics.
ShelterBox has been active in Kurdistan for more than two years now. With no end in sight to the chaos in Syria and Iraq, we remain committed to doing all we can to provide shelter for those displaced by the conflict.
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