The land now known as Iraq has a long and storied history as the 'Cradle of Civilization'. The ancient Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians all began their empires in this region. The Greeks, Romans, Persians and Ottoman Turks ruled this area over the millenium.
Modern Iraq's history began at the end of World War I when Great Britain gained control of this area from the Ottoman Empire until 1932 when Iraq became independent. After a period of violent coups, Saddam Hussein came into power in 1979. He led Iraq into regional wars against Iran and Kuwait. His regime was ousted in 2003 during the Iraq War, which led to waves of internally displaced persons and refugees.
In 2014, the rise of militant ISIS led to terrible violence and destruction as it took over 40% of Iraq (and a third of Syria). This conflict led to new waves of refugees fleeing the country or internally to northern Iraq. More than 260,000 people fled Iraq and 3 million more were displaced within the country according to the UNHCR. In addition, there are about 280,000 refugees that have fled other regional wars, mostly Syria, that have settled in Iraq.
Thankfully, ISIS was formally defeated by end of 2017. There are still many challenges that face the country as it seeks to rebuild after years of war.
WCF sponsors the cost of Food and Hygiene Care Kits for the most vulnerable communities in northern Iraq, primarily Syrian Refugees and Yazidi Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), but also local Iraqi communities such as poorer Kurds, Chaldeans, Assyrian and Armenians. We will be working with on the ground partners such as Zalal Life and Operation Mercy. We are planning to serve as many as 2,500 families or approximately 15,000 persons throughout the country.
Iraq has faced the devastating effects of multiple civil wars in the country since 2003. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions of people either fled as refugees or were internally displaced, most of whom ended up in Northern Iraq. The Refugee/IDP camps in the region continue to house hundreds of thousands of refugees. Most of these are Yazidi IDP camps where they fled the ISIS genocide in Sinjar. Yazidis were being systematically targeted by ISIS for slaughter and slavery. The current COVID-19 lockdowns have caused virtually all daily wage earners to lose their jobs. There had been a number of NGOs operating in this particular area, but many of these moved to Mosul. The government's resources are very limited and barely can take care of their own natural citizens so they are asking all humanitarian organizations to help with food for the refugees. In addition, local villages have also been calling our friends asking for help with food.
WCF is partnering with Operation Mercy to provide holistic rehabilitation care for Syrian refugee and Yazidi internally displaced families who require long term physical or occupational therapy. This approach focuses on the whole family of the disabled person as these families face the enormous challenge of having fled from their homes due to war, and the additional burden of having to care for someone in the family with a disability. This is hard enough to manage in a Developed Nation which has many resources, but for a refugee, this is a crushing burden.
Over 1 billion people in the world, about 15% of the world population, experience various forms of disabilities, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Disabilities are a contributing factor for poverty, reduced access to education and health, exclusion and discrimination for both persons with disabilities and their families.
The vulnerability of families that have family members with disabilities is unfortunately increased by war and displacement. The wars in Syria and Iraq have had a severe impact on the people. Responding to the needs of refugees and IDPs, WCF and Operation Mercy are partnering together to make a tangible difference in the lives of the people with disabilities and their families.