Every day there are dreadful reports of suffering from across the Middle East. In Yarmouk and across Syria, people are besieged. In Iraq, communities of all faiths and ethnicities are being targeted, and in the occupied Palestinian territory the daily pain of Palestinians living under occupation goes on - largely ignored and unseen by the world.
So what can organisations like Christian Aid do when it all seems so overwhelming? Frances Guy, Head of Middle East at Christian Aid, explains. Since early 2014, there has been widespread conflict and displacement in Iraq. This has escalated in the past nine months as the armed group calling itself ISIS or IS advanced.
More than 2.6 million¹ people have had to flee their homes since January 2014 due to fighting, insecurity and attacks on civilians, including minority groups. Reports of atrocities, including mass killings, summary executions, rape, kidnapping and other forms of violence against civilians, highlight the violent nature of this current conflict. In total, 5.2 million are also in need of humanitarian assistance.
As the conflict continues and more people are being displaced, there is a continuing need for basic assistance in the form of food, shelter, clothes, blankets and personal hygiene items. Most want nothing more than to return home, but this is impossible while the conflict continues.
Many of those who have been displaced may not have a home to go back to, even when it's deemed safe for them to return. In addition to this current crisis, Iraq also hosts over 235,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the conflict in their own country. Most Syrian refugees, and those internally displaced in Iraq, left their homes with next to nothing.
The targeting of minorities
It's clear that minorities, including Christians, Yazidis, Shabak and others, have been deliberately targeted, which we deplore. It's also clear that all Iraqis are under threat, and people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds are among those affected.
Our partners are currently distributing aid to, and working with, Iraqis who are not living in camps, but are instead staying in towns and villages in Iraq. Many of them have been dependent on support from host communities. Our partners are working with these communities to mitigate any conflict that may occur as a result of this additional strain on their resources.
We're also continuing to provide vital humanitarian relief to displaced communities, in both the Kurdish region and other parts of Iraq, providing much-needed food, hygiene kits and blankets. This work has been kindly supported by the ACT appeal and HEKS (Swiss International Church Aid).
Christian Aid: working with people of all faiths and none
Neither we nor our partners discriminate on the basis of religion as to who receives aid. We work to humanitarian and Christian principles, but we also know that singling out one ethnicity or religion for assistance could fuel further ethnic division and conflict. We stand firmly by our mandate to work with those of all faiths and none.
Where sectarian tensions can lead to conflict, we can help to mitigate this by ensuring we are being fair, transparent and principled in how we help those who need us most. We will continue to look for new partners in the country who can reach those most in need, including displaced Christian communities.
Advocating for a peaceful and just resolution
Humanitarian aid is essential at present, to meet the needs of the millions fleeing conflict. But this is only a short-term remedy. We're advocating for a peaceful, just and inclusive resolution to the current conflicts.
We are urging our government and the international community to support the growth of inclusive government that represents all those living in Iraq, including minority groups. It is only then that Iraq will see a peaceful and just society for all faiths.