CARE In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq


CARE and our local partners are supporting displaced families in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq as they struggle through the cold winter months. 

The refugees that have sought shelter here had to flee from violence with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing. Urgent funding is needed to support the humanitarian response for refugees and displaced persons in Iraq and the broader region. With the Syrian conflict entering its fifth year in 2015, the needs of the affected populations continue to rise.

Debbie Santalesa is a senior program manager with CARE Canada’s humanitarian assistance and emergency team. She is currently working in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq where she sent us this dispatch from a recent project assessment.

I wanted to give a summary of my visit today to a camp where CARE has already provided winter support through the provision of winter clothing and kits including kerosene tanks, stoves, blankets, carpets and jerry cans. 

CARE has recently started working here and has committed to help provide water, sanitation and hygiene support. There are approximately 1,900 families or more than 11,000 people, 52 per cent are women. It is estimated that 40 per cent are now female heads of households as the men were either missing, captured or killed during fighting in the past year.

It is clear the camp needed support for water and sanitation. CARE just completed a one-time collection of garbage as this had not been done in two weeks and was becoming a hygiene and health risk. Without ongoing support, there is no one who will be collecting the garbage.

Our assessment also noted the latrines, wash facilities and septic tanks are not sufficient for a camp with 11,000 people. They do not meet humanitarian standards both in number and location and have problems with how they were constructed; there were areas where the sewage pipe is leaking causing the build-up of sewage water near the latrines, which were beginning to leak into some of the nearby tents where people are living.

The smell is foul now. People tell us we are lucky it is winter because we would not be able to stay here in summer as their tents are only a few metres away. For those on the other side, the latrines were too far for them especially at night for the children, women and elderly to safely access.

I noticed women having to carry 20+ litre drums on their heads to get water for their daily needs; one young girl told me she came several times a day to help her mother with bringing water.

We met one man who had four children. In true hospitality common to so many in the region, the man invited our team for lunch and tea. We respectfully declined as we were finishing our visit. As we spoke, his youngest, a boy about two years old, came running over without shoes and wearing clothes too big; in fact, all the kids playing in that camp area were wearing shoes or clothes that were either too small or too big for them; none had proper winter jackets or warm sweaters.

His father explained that the young child had a heart problem, but the camp doctor could not help and they had no money to go to the town hospital to treat their small child. The man also told us that they needed more clothes for the older people like him as the clothes previously distributed were useful, but much more is needed.

The camp managers told us they were trying their best to help the people and wish they could do more, but they are understaffed and do not have the resources to meet the needs of all the families in this camp. 

Written by Debbie Santalesa, Senior Program Manager