Fairfield, Conn. (August 26, 2014) — The humanitarian impact of the fighting in Iraq is pushing host communities to breaking point, with some towns tripling in size and forcing those who fled the bloodshed to live in appalling conditions.
The United Nations estimates that of the 1.45 million people displaced in Iraq this year, almost 400,000 are living in informal accommodation like schools, parks and abandoned buildings in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and require urgent shelter. This includes about 200,000 children.
In the town of Sharya in the west of KRI, the population has ballooned from 13,500 a few weeks ago to more than 40,000.
To the east in Suleimanyah, the hunt for shelter is desperate too. Save the Children staff visited a two-room farmhouse on the outskirts of town where 8 Yazidi families were living. Most slept on the roof because there was no space inside, and they had intermittent electricity and had run out of fuel for cooking.
"While we are thankful to have this farmhouse, the conditions are very bad," said Mahir, a father of four whose two brothers were left on Mount Sinjar and whom he fears may have been taken by militants. "We are thinking a lot about our relatives who are not here. My nephew and nieces miss their fathers."
Mahir and his family spent six days trapped on Mount Sinjar when the city of Sinjar was attacked by armed groups on August 3. Before they fled they grabbed bags of flour to make bread, which lasted until the fifth day. Now they are suffering food shortages again.
"We might be dead if we didn't take that flour with us, the last day we didn't have anything to eat," Mahir said. "But again we are struggling to survive. We sleep on very thin mats on the roof, there are no pillows or blankets. We have one small stove for eight families. We don't have enough water, food, gas or oil."
Save the Children has distributed food parcels for 2,500 people around Suleimanyah, including rice, lentils, tomato paste, cooking oil and tea. Save the Children has also handed out sleeping and shelter kits to more than 6,600 people.
"The need for food and shelter is dire," said Save the Children Iraq Country Director Tina Yu. "Many families are going hungry, and these are families that often have fled their homes fearing for their lives with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
"More than 2,000 schools in Iraq are currently housing 52,000 people, delaying the start of the school year until at least October. Host communities are battling to cope with the rapid influx of people and resources are stretched to breaking point. And let's remember Iraq is already hosting more than 200,000 Syrian refugees who fled the war on the other side of the border."
Save the Children has reached more than 125,000 displaced people in Iraq this year.
Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.