Sponsoring food distribution in Kurdistan

Nicole James | Near East

In Kurdistan – where millions of internally displaced peoples (IDPs) have settled into monotonous camps, obscure villages and unfinished buildings – food continues to be the number one need.

At a spring 2016 UN meeting held in Kurdistan, speakers emphasised the ongoing need for food assistance yet acknowledged the constant reduction of aid, said long-term worker and attendee, Karina*. In the beginning, displaced families living in large camps received two food packages a month, later only one, and then a single reduced portion, she explained. Now, even that aid has become irregular.

“Our partners mainly work in the unfinished buildings and [informal] camps, people who are spread out…and even in the mountains,” she stated.

Fifty-nine percent of OM aid given to the Kurdistan region in the first three quarters of 2016 ($520,600) provided food assistance for 20,500 families. Other relief funds went to health, hygiene and medical costs as well as seasonal assistance, such as providing propane bottles used for cooking and heating.

Many of the IDPs whose desperate pictures appear worldwide lived in well-off situations prior to Daesh (ISIS) invasions. “They are not [inherently] poor, but they are made poor because they lost everything,” Karina’s husband James* explained.

One IDP believer, Rashid*, “was clever enough to realise the situation and leave before they had to flee,” James said. Rashid and his family moved to Kurdistan ahead of the crisis. Now, they regularly volunteer in a local church, where, James noted, the joy of serving Jesus in a body of believers “keeps them going.”

Their money, on the other hand, is disappearing. “He has no work, they [left their home] two years ago, and they start using up what they had,” James said.

Unlike Rashid, most IDPs were caught off guard and fled with no provisions. Initially, donations poured in from around the globe, but two and a half years later, financial support has waned.

“You think now they should start to be self-sufficient, but how?” James asked. “There is no work…There are camps all over, and in one camp, there are 25,000 people.”

James and Karina, who oversee relief and development projects in Kurdistan, said donors want to see relief efforts transition into development; however, the majority of IDPs still struggle to meet basic needs. In addition, fighting in Mosul has heightened worries of a new wave of refugees rushing into Kurdistan.

Nonetheless, according to James, 20% of OM aid dollars in Kurdistan are earmarked for development, with part of the fund reserved for the future and part sponsoring educational trainings for IDPs.

*Name changed 

Nicole James is a writer for OM International, passionate about publishing stories of God’s works among the nations, telling people about the wonderful things He is doing around the world.

Published: Tuesday, 02 May 2017
Credit: Nicole James
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