DRC registers nearly 9,000 Iraqi IDPs at new emergency site south of MosulAs military operations push closer towards and into Mosul, more Iraqis are finding themselves displaced by violence.
The Danish Refugee Council (DRC), along with other organisations, began receiving displaced Iraqis at the Qayyarah Airstrip on 06 December. Thanks to the support from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), and UNICEF, about 1,445 families (8,987 individuals) have been registered and housed in the camp, with more desperate Iraqis arriving each day.
Over 1,420 Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) kits have been distributed to IDPs within hours of arrival, giving critical emergency food and water as well as hygiene and dignity kits to cover the first 72 hours at the site.
In support of the government, DRC is providing camp coordination and camp management at the site, including implementation of services and activities, as well as monitoring tools and systems to identify service gaps. Protection monitoring teams are also on the ground to refer vulnerable cases.
As nighttime temperatures in southern Ninewa hover around freezing, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) has in addition to DRC distributed essential non-food item (NFI) kits that ensure families have mattresses, blankets, stoves and heaters to fight the cold when they arrive, while the Government of Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MoMD) is providing kerosene.
UNICEF has installed necessary WASH infrastructure in the form of latrines, showers, water tanks and water points, which DRC will maintain through trucking in of water and general maintenance, in addition to refuse collection and hygiene promotion.
“The atmosphere at the emergency site has been one of quiet relief and families are quickly settling in,” said DRC’s Erbil Head of Office, Rachel Rigby. “The DRC camp management team has been able to begin coordinating efforts, meaning that families have received life-saving assistance from various non-governmental and governmental entities quickly and calmly.”
“I have also been particularly encouraged by the stories we have been hearing of a couple of families being reunited after many months of separation due to conflict,” she added.
Upon arrival, many IDPs shared harrowing stories of escape from military operations against the so-called Islamic State (IS) and the difficult journeys they endured to reach safety.
Seventeen-year-old Ahmed fled al-Shirqat district in Salah-al-Din Governorate on foot along with nearly 60 families who crossed the freezing waters of the Tigris River before continuing the journey north towards Qayyarah. Relieved to be in a safe place, he invited a DRC team into a relative’s tent to meet family members and share their story.
“We walked for many hours; it was very cold, and we had to cross the [Tigris] river,” he said. “We are happy to be here, in a safe place, we need protection, but I’m waiting to be able to go back to school. I want to continue my education.”
At the site’s new-arrivals registration desk, Mohammed, 46, stood on the sidelines of a crowd of men and women waiting for their tent assignments. Quiet and observant, he too was thankful to finally be in a safe place after fleeing his village along with 30 members of his family.
“Daesh (Arabic name for the so-called Islamic Strate) attacked our town two weeks ago and we had to leave when the Iraqi military arrived,” he said, describing the slow journey he and his extended family made on foot and by car. “We walked for twelve hours sometimes day and night; it was so difficult and we were scared of possible IEDs along the way.”
Mohammed eventually made it to the Qayyarah Airstrip site with his elderly mother and siblings, along with their families.
“Thank you for helping us, thank you very much.”
DRC has been committed to its role as a first-line responder to the Mosul crisis with teams operational in Erbil-Qayyarah and Tikrit, as well as on stand-by in Duhok to support a response in northern Ninewa. On an overall level, preparations, coordination and response capacity are well underway, however concerns remain about whether there is enough shared-capacity to support the largescale displacement we still expect from Mosul.
DRC will continue assisting the displaced from Mosul and areas around in the time to come. At the moment figures are manageable but the organisation will continue to monitor and evaluate how to ensure the best integrated response.