By Joe Cropp, IFRC in Erbil, Iraq
The man slowly pushes his way through the crowd at the gate, and emerges into the open space of the Khazer relief camp, a timber baby’s cradle slung over his shoulder. His family follow behind with only the possessions they were able to carry – some blankets and a few bags of clothes. Like thousands of others, they have fled Mosul with only what they could carry, making difficult choices on what they would need for life in the camp, and what they valued most.
Expecting a longer stay as the battle to retake Mosul drags on, some families bring their stoves and kitchen utensils. Those who arrive by car or hitch rides on trucks and trailers are able to bring more than those who fled the city on foot, who bring only their most cherished items. Suitcases, mattresses and even the occasional piece of treasured furniture are carried through the front gates of the camp.
Inside the camp, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society together with other humanitarian organizations and government agencies provide the basics a family needs: tents, mattresses, blankets, warm clothes, stoves, kitchen sets, jerry cans and hygiene kits. These kits include everything you take for granted in day-to-day life, whether it’s toilet paper, soap or a simple toothbrush.
Iraqi Red Crescent Society provides essential services in the camp, such as safe drinking water, basic healthcare, first aid and psychosocial support. More than 6,700 people have received psychosocial support, and more than 5,600 have received first aid and other medical services.
For other services, the camp residents themselves are already filling the gaps, setting up market stalls and establishing small businesses, with the local barber kept busy cutting hair and shaving beards.
Entire villages and city neighbourhoods have fled Mosul and surrounding areas together, and are now again living side-by-side in these relief camps, maintaining community links while they wait, and hope, to safely return home.