Helping in the time of the pandemic

Apr 26, 2020 | Great job

The nationwide quarantine has already been lasting for more than six weeks. Whom have we managed to help during this time? Is providing help in such conditions possible at all?

In Iraq, similarly to Poland, many restrictions and prohibitions have been imposed that aim at containing the coronavirus spread. Roads between the Iraqi Kurdistan and regions administered by Baghdad are closed. Although Kurdistan officially constitutes part of Iraq, in this situation the central government in Baghdad has been treating it as a separate state. This led to hundreds of people getting stuck at checkpoints between the two administrations. They were forced to camp in the fields before they could continue their journey.

This is a result of the lack of preparation of the Iraqi health care system for a challenge such as the current coronavirus pandemic. It is well reflected in the disease mapping which covers only larger Iraqi cities. In the countryside and in places where camps for internally displaced persons are located, according to official statistics infections do not occur.

Due to movement restrictions combined with the closure of most shops we had to temporarily suspend the opening of new workplaces. We had been planning to open, among others, a bakery in Sinjar and a library in Teleskoff. Altogether, the opening of ten new businesses had been planned before the pandemic outbreak. But we will launch them sooner or later – the Great Job project has remained our priority. And since the beginning of the year, we have managed to implement several such projects.

In January, we opened another greenhouse in Sinjar. The one we built last year has turned out to be quite successful. It is one of those ideas that are worth emulating. In Sinjar, the farming conditions are excellent. Many of the local crops are regarded as the best in the country. I even had a chance to find it out myself, and I can attest there is no exaggeration in this claim. The only problem is financial since the construction of one such structure costs around 3000 dollars (including the purchase of equipment and seeds). But a high price of the dollar and the euro is something we will have to deal with for the coming months.

In February, we equipped a plumber’s and upholstery workshops in Teleskoff, as well as a car repair shop in Snuni in the Sinjar Mountains. During our March trip to Iraq, we handed over funds for the opening of a small tailor’s shop. I wrote about it in the article ‘About small human needs.’ I hope that in May we will be able to safely resume our work of establishing new workplaces.

How to help during the time of pandemic?

Since half of March, our activities have been severely restricted. We had to cancel all our meetings and fundraisers. We have moved into the internet ‘underground’, which for the time being is the only place where we can acquire new funds that can be used for help. And there is still a great need for help and despite difficult conditions, we are doing our best to provide it. Since the closure of roads and shops in Iraq, problems with the most basic food supplies occurred. We immediately received requests for help from families living in wild encampments. Most humanitarian organizations have withdrawn from the region. Hundreds of thousands of terrorism victims have been cut off from external help.

The good thing is that from the beginning we have been cooperating with local foundations and organizations. Thanks to that, we are not concerned with how to provide help. There are people on the ground who are ready to work in any conditions. In April, the volunteers from the SCO delivered food supply to more than a hundred families living in the wild encampment in Khanke.

These are mostly single mothers and the elderly. For them, the current situation is particularly stressful. Children cannot go to school, while occupational therapy has been suspended. Their living conditions are often very poor. The lack of food, water, and any other help is a factor that can undermine the entire work that has been done to date – the work that makes a return to a normal life possible.

There are many such wild encampments in Iraq. Shortly after Easter, thanks to help from the Gilgamesh Organization, we provided food supplies to residents of the Zawita camp near Duhok. There are few dozens of refugee families living there in a beautiful mountainous scenery, particularly picturesque at this time of the year. For the last six years, they have been left out of any humanitarian aid activities, with no access to external help. In other words, no one comes here, there are no banners with logos of international foundations. The camp residents receive help only from their neighbors living in nearby villages. We found this place only thanks to our friends who knew that somewhere in seclusion and oblivion people were waiting for help. Last year, we bought them fire extinguishers, among other things, as the threat of fire is one of the most important problems in such places. Old, torn tents are like paper. Overloaded electrical installations are a major cause of fires, and firefighters arrive after a long time – too long to successfully put the fire down.

This little help will allow them to survive for a bit longer, but I’m very well aware that it is merely a temporary measure. We can provide real help only when we have enough funds to build new houses for them or create new jobs that would provide them with a permanent source of income and hope. I can say from experience that once provided with such strong foundations, they will handle the rest themselves.

Author: Dawid Czyż

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