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Responding to the Needs of Families Displaced from Northern Iraq

Our emergency response teams face challenges when providing essential humanitarian care to families constantly on the move
Garmawa Camp, Kurdistan. Credit: ACF Kurdistan
Garmawa Camp, Kurdistan. Credit: ACF Kurdistan

For nearly two weeks, Action Against Hunger's Kurdistan mission has been providing emergency assistance to some of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people who have fled the violence in Mosul and the Anbar governorate. Within 24 hours, the technical team carried out a rapid assessment of needs in both Erbil and Dohuk Governorates, and the operational staff started the first emergency response.

This sudden and massive influx of displaced people is in a region that is already hosting thousands of refugees from the Syrian crisis, who have been pouring in for almost a year. Some families are staying in schools, mosques, unfinished buildings or with relatives. Others are living in temporary camps, like the one in Garmawa where we're intervening. All of them urgently need water, shelter, food and care. In response to these urgent needs, our team is working to set up a second base in Dohuk and employing over 60 international and national experienced staff to provide immediate assistance to almost 40,000 people.

In this environment, providing the most basic assistance is extremely challenging. Our teams must adapt to the difficulties of locating and helping families who are frequently on the move. Specific programs will be implemented to assist families at the checkpoints. Waiting 24 to 48 hours in very high temperatures (up to 122°F) without any facilities, water points, latrines or even shade can be dangerous, especially for young children and pregnant or nursing women. To improve access to safe water and sanitation, for example, a Mobile Rapid Response Team (MRRT) is intervening with critical maintenance, cleaning and hygiene needs. 

In addition to addressing people's physical needs, we are also addressing the psychological needs of displaced families. The dire realities of displacement—disruption of routines, precarious living conditions, lack of financial resources, and uncertainty about the future—can affect people psychologically. Fear, worry, grief, anger, and stress can also deteriorate maternal and child care practices, which can impact a child’s health. This is especially true of young children who are still nursing. To help families overcome trauma, we are offering psychological support to parents and children, and teaching proper infant feeding and hygiene practices. Thanks to our mobile teams, we're able to respond quickly even as displaced families move frequently, and we're able to support them in their host communities.

In the coming days, in order to prevent outbreaks of malnutrition in the displaced population, our team will scale up emergency response in the camps and other areas where refugees are staying. Below is a snapshot of the programs we're implementing:

Water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities for 15,000 people

  • Water trucking and storage
  • Hygiene kit distribution
  • Sanitation infrastructure repairs for health facilities and households in host communities
  • Emergency latrine installation and water provisions at checkpoints
  • Existing water point rehabilitation
  • Proper hygiene promotion

Food Security activities could reach 10,000 people

  • Food ration distributions in the Garmawa camp and at checkpoints
  • Local food business support
  • Planning for money and voucher distribution for families in urban areas

Mental Health and Care Practice activities for 15,000 people

  • Psychological support for mothers and children in baby-friendly spaces within the Garmawa camp
  • Infant care promotion for pregnant and nursing women

Nutrition assessment

  • Nutrition assessment currently in progress
  • Proposal for activities including community nutrition screenings in vulnerable populations, including children under five and pregnant and nursing women

About Dominique Hernandez

Dominique manages Action Against Hunger's online community and social fundraising efforts. Find Dominique on Google+.

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