Amid the renewed wave of violence in Iraq which has led to the displacement of more than 1.9 million Iraqis, and despite the Iraqi Red Crescent Society’s (IRCS) increasing efforts in responding to the needs of these internally displaced people (IDP), Red Crescent volunteers continue to attend to the needs of Syrians who have taken refuge in Iraq since Syria’s turmoil became life threatening.
Since the onset of Syria crisis almost four years ago, neighbouring Iraq became a destination for thousands of Syrians who felt threatened by the security events in their homeland. The number of Syrians currently present in Iraq is estimated at 216,000, most of whom are living in the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI) which hosts the largest refugee camps in the country. Many families are also residing in a camp established in the city of Al Qa’im in the Anbar governorate and which is the only shelter founded outside the KRI. Others, meanwhile, have taken refuge in different regions in the country. Recently, hundreds of Syrian newcomers headed to the Dohuk governorate on the border with Turkey as restive events hit Syria’s city of Kobani.
“I have four children. We left all our possessions behind because of the war. We are now living in camps and in conditions that are strange to us,” said Ms Vian Ahmed, a Syrian refugee who currently lives in KRI city of Erbil. “We will suffer a lot during the coming winter season. I wish we could go back to our country.”
Despite the surge of violence in Iraq in the past months, which has resulted in a massive displacement and an aggravating humanitarian situation, Iraqi Red Crescent volunteers have continued to look after Syrian refugees and care for their needs in different parts of the country.
Lately, volunteers distributed food parcels to 10,350 Syrian refugees in Erbil and Dohuk as part of a relief program funded by the Marathon Oil Company and carried out with the support of the American Red Cross. The programme provides meals and health services to 7,528 Syrian families.
In March, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society launched relief operations which include distributing water bottles and meals, as well as proving health and educational services and psychosocial support. More than 100,000 people have so far benefitted from these services, among them about 5,000 students who received help enrolling in and preparing for school in the academic year 2013-2014. The society also ensured the delivery of drinking water to several refugees camps, in addition to implementing psychosocial programs that help in the integration of Syrian refugee families in their new environment.
“We continue to help Syrian refugees inside and outside the country despite the difficult humanitarian conditions in Iraq,” said Mr Mohammad Al Khozai, the assistant Secretary General of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society.
Mr Al Khozai assured that the organization is also trying to help partners in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in their efforts to meet the rising humanitarian needs of refugee families, especially as winter is around the corner.
The Iraqi Red Crescent Society’s efforts come as escalating violent acts are equally threatening the lives of both Iraqis and refugees living in Iraq. However, the Red Crescent volunteers managed to respond to the dire humanitarian conditions, and were keen on continuing to attend to the needs of Syria’s refugees with the same care as on day one of Syria’s unrest.