30 Oct 2016

DRC - Emergency Director from Iraq: The Displaced Have Experienced Horrible Things

Danish Refugee Council's Emergency Director has just been to Iraq and talked to some of the first people that have managed to flee the areas around Mosul.

So far around 10,000 persons have reached safety after the offensive against the city of Mosul began nearly two weeks ago. DRC's Emergency Director, Rasmus Stuhr Jakobsen, has just spend a week in Iraq and met some of the families:

"It's absolutely terrible stories they tell me. The families have not had the opportunity to work unless they worked for the Islamic State, and most refused to do so. So they have had to survive in every possible way imaginable. They have lived on their savings, borrowed money from family and friends - and many have lived by the little necessities, they have had. It is often about a single goat or cow that gave the families milk - or they have grown a little bit of vegetables. Many of them tell that it has been like being imprisoned in their own homes," Rasmus Stuhr Jakobsen says.

Many of the children have not been to school in the more than two years, the Islamic State has reigned in and around Mosul.

"I just spoke with a woman who arrived at the camp with her husband and their four daughters. They report that Islamic State took over the schools and insisted that children should learn how to build bombs, killing other people, so the family chose to take heir children out of school. So, thousands of children have not attended school the past two years," says Rasmus Stuhr Jakobsen.

Mines everywhere

Danish Refugee Council is now working on helping the many people expected to flee in the near future.

"As fighting moves closer to populated areas, we expect many thousands of civilians will flee in the coming weeks. Initially, the Danish Refugee Council will assist them with the most basic things like food and water. These are people who have been forced to flee head over heels and therefore have nothing with them," says Rasmus Stuhr Jakobsen.

It can take a long time before the displaced are able to return, though many express a wanting to return home as soon as possible. But no one knows when it is safe enough:

"Islamic State have placed mines in many places, and the families I've talked to, express a great uncertainty about when they can return - though that is what most want," says Rasmus Stuhr Jakobsen and continues:

"We are therefore also working to ensure more permanent access to clean drinking water in the camps. It's about establishing large water tanks where we can either send clean drinking water in with trucks - or try to pump water up from the ground. In many places the water however is dirty and must be cleaned properly, so we ensure that infectious diseases do not spread in the camps."

There is also a major task in ensuring that the civilian people get support for processing the gruesome experiences that many have had to endure in recent years:

"They tell utterly horrible stories, and a significant part of our work is to try to help them process the traumas that they come with. Here we obviously have a strong focus on children, who are particularly vulnerable in a situation like this,” says Rasmus Stuhr Jakobsen.

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