N. Iraq: Grave danger as winter approaches

Photo by Joseph Rose/BGR
KURDISTAN (BP) -- Seasons are changing and summer's heat is passing, but forcibly displaced families in northern Iraq are worried because winter will soon bring bitter cold, and many of them may not survive.

When Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremists forced them to flee their homes, some Iraqis were able to find refuge in schools, empty buildings, or apartment complexes. Many others, however, are exposed to the elements and will be in grave danger when wintertime temperatures drop into the teens.

"Shelter is lacking or inadequate," Abraham Shepherd, who directs work in the Middle East for Baptist Global Response, said. "People are living in their cars, under doorsteps, in the open fields -- with mainly tarps covering them. People know winter will come quickly on them, and they need to be ready -- if ever you can be ready in those conditions."

Shepherd and local partners working with BGR delivered relief supplies to more than a dozen families who had taken shelter under one highway overpass.

"Each of those families had at least seven members. The kids were just being kids -- sliding on the concrete slope," Shepherd said. "The families are living under the bridge. They made the ground their home. They are planning, when winter comes, maybe they'll put a tarp on each side to try to keep warm."

Farther down the road, the relief team found another group that had taken shelter in makeshift tents under a few trees. Even in some of the buildings they visited, people were sleeping on the concrete floor with thin blankets or mats underneath them.

"It's already cold at night in Kurdistan," Shepherd said. "And their biggest concern now is what will happen to us in the winter?"

In addition to food baskets provided by Global Hunger Relief, BGR is distributing supplies intended to help people survive the winter: coats and rubber boots, blankets, mattresses, and carpets to isolate the cold, as well as heating stoves and fuel.

The families being helped are Kurdish Yazidis and other minorities, as well as Iraqi Christians, some of whom are members of the response team and were themselves forcibly displaced from their own homes.

"When you are with them, you see they are confused, defeated," Shepherd said. "There is panic and fear in their eyes. I can't but offer: Our God will help us through, as he is faithful."

For more information on how you can help, go to www.globalhungerrelief.org.

Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response.
Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
Download Story