Help during the time of the pandemic, part 2.
In March this year, a lockdown was imposed in Iraq which lasted until half of August. For a long time, many shops as well as roads between the provinces were closed. Humanitarian organizations halted their activities. Residents of camps for internally displaced people were practically entirely cut off from external help.
For several weeks, we were also forced to stop opening new workplaces, but in return, we started food distribution for families living in wild encampments. We reactivated the Great Job Project in May. From that moment we have managed to open 17 workplaces, which is a significant success having in mind many restrictions imposed in Iraq. We have also realized that we need to be ready to act in unforeseen emergencies. Although our main goal is helping families to become self-sufficient and independent from external help, there have been cases where we needed to buy food for people. That’s how it was during the pandemic which turned upside down many of our plans but also complicated the lives of all those who want to go back to normal life.
We received great help from Caritas Poland, which for the second time financed the purchase of milk powder for children from families living in informal and wild encampments. I have written several times about these places but I will do it one more time for those of you who have not read our previous articles. The wild or informal encampments, as they are usually called, are small communities on the outskirts of cities, villages, or official camps. Their residents are people who for various reasons did not find shelter in regular refugee camps, usually because they were full. However, it happened several times that a single mother was turned away because… her time in captivity was not long enough to qualify.
The official camps were established by local authorities with the help of the UN or international humanitarian organizations. Families that are placed there in theory can count on support from the charity institutions, although often it is not efficient enough. Usually, when the government funding is halted, help stops and projects collapse. In the informal encampments, people must rely only on themselves and spontaneous help from those who are not indifferent to their fate. Residents of such places found themselves in a situation without exit, so they settled in the nearest safe place. Here, they cannot count on international foundations and charity organizations which usually never reach them.
To reach the people forgotten by the world
Thanks to cooperation with local foundations, we know the situation of people living in unofficial camps. We know that they need all kinds of help, because most often they have no chance of finding a job, and their living conditions are catastrophic. Families with children have no access to running water or electricity. Often an old, destroyed tent serves as their house. In the best-case scenarios, they receive a plastic container in which large families live on several square meters. It is difficult for these people to return to towns and villages which they left fleeing ISIS. They have practically nothing, so starting a new life is a great challenge for them. Especially that many of them lost their relatives as well.
Like last year, the project of the purchase of the powder milk financed by Caritas Poland included such families. The milk was purchased in Iraq and thanks to cooperation with the Gilgamesh Organization we managed to get a discount from the local supplier. During the pandemic, when many charity organizations had to suspend activities, such help was invaluable. We reached nearly 250 families, distributing almost 4000 of 400g milk packages. Each child in a family received 12 such packages. This supply is meant to last for three months and help to survive the worst moments. Such projects show that humanitarian help can unite people for a common goal. For us, cooperation with Caritas has been an honor.
Around two weeks ago, another organization that we cooperate with reached out to us and asked for support for 200 families that have recently returned to Sinjar. Bartek Rutkowski talked about it in the latest episode “From the water to the sand”. We had to choose between opening a new workplace or helping people who asked for food. Such a choice is never easy. We know the living conditions of these people and how difficult their decision to go back home is. The pictures from Sinjar which you could see on our Facebook profile and in the previous article (Different? Or worse?) depict it very well. We decided to act and we sent the funds for the purchase of such products as pasta, rice, oil, or canned food. It is an ad hoc support which will not last for long, but we couldn’t refuse. People count on us because, as it has been proved many times, only we are capable to react immediately.