West of Mosul: Scaling up the emergency response
Hundreds of children and their families have been fleeing Baa’j and Baadi districts, two of the last strongholds of ISIS, south-west of Tal Afar in Iraq. Many find refuge in the informal settlement in Tal Jarabia. Others have no choice but to continue travelling elsewhere in Iraq. All of them struggle to cope with extremely high temperatures, and a lack of water and food. Terre des hommes’ (Tdh) teams and their partners have been working continuously to ensure emergency assistance is provided to the vulnerable displaced families in Tal Jarabia. Never before in Iraq has Tdh been challenged with such a huge influx of new arrivals.
Today, the informal settlement of Tal Jarabia shelters about 1650 displaced families seeking refuge after the fighting to retake some of the last ISIS strongholds in northern Iraq. Many of them lost their livelihoods to the heavy fighting, and spent hours on trucks in high temperatures to now live in a settlement where there are not enough tents, and there is limited access to water, food, health and protection. As a result, children have been at a high risk of dehydration, hunger and water-borne diseases.
“As for the lack of water and food, many families use the settlement in Tal Jarabia as a transit site and after a few days they are forced to continue towards camps in the east. People are becoming desperate, they use all kind of transportation possible to leave the desert. I saw a trailer packed with families and their belongings attached to a three-wheel-tractor a few days ago.” says Francis Hughes, Tdh Country Emergency Programme Coordinator.
Families remaining in Tal Jarabia usually have their livestock with them, their only source of income. Yet, there is no one to provide food and water for their animals and they are being left to die as a result. “We saw many dead animals, mainly sheep, but also some dogs and a horse that was used to tow a cart along the road. Temperatures have started rising over 45°C. There is nowhere to shelter them, not enough water to share with them or feed for them,” says Francis.
Tdh is working around the clock partnering with other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide displaced children and their families with water, sanitation facilities, emergency kits, as well as hygiene and kitchen kits. Some of the NGOs have been able to supply small amounts of food, but as the numbers of displaced families fluctuate and grow, there is a desperate need for more support.
“Emergency kits for all new arrivals and water are distributed on a daily basis. In cooperation with other NGOs, Tdh is soon going to set up a mobile reverse osmosis unit connected to two existing bore holes in the settlement. This will allow us to provide families with safe drinking water while avoiding daily water trucking,” says Xavier Lauth, Tdh Programme Coordinator.
Weather conditions have been complicating the distributions. “Now with the dry season, we are constantly battling sandstorms during distributions, reducing visibility to zero at times, making it very difficult to work. Three elderly people in the settlement with breathing difficulties died last week as a result. Our trucks leave from Qayyarrah at 1 A.M. to be in Tal Jarabia early in the morning to avoid the heat and the storms. We usually start distributing at 5 A. M,” adds Francis.
Tdh established both a school and a child friendly space to provide non-formal education and activities for children in Tal Jarabia several weeks ago. However, as thousands of new people have been arriving every day, the area has become a temporary shelter for families and their children. “The need for basic shelters is very high and unmet. We have been looking for partners to provide additional tents so that we can start running the child protection and educational activities soon. We cannot let this conflict rob children of their rights to childhood, protection, and education,” explains Xavier.
Tdh has been scaling up its emergency response with continuous daily delivery of humanitarian aid. Tdh delivers 120 litres of water on a daily basis to each family in the settlement and we will try to ensure that the most acute needs of children and their families are met in the coming months.
We continue our efforts in the field to support families that are fleeing from IS with the most needed help. You, too, can contribute to this effort by doing an emergency donation.
Photo credit: ©Tdh