As more than 350,000 Iraqis have fled the violence in and around the city of Mosul, MCC is providing food and household supplies to those who slip through the safety net of other humanitarian organizations.
In Mosul, civilians are directed to emergency camps away from the front lines as Iraqi security forces, international coalition forces and other armed groups are battling to reclaim Mosul city from ISIS. However, many of the camps are full beyond capacity and unsuitable for long-term displacement.
Some people choose to stay with family or friends or to live in unfinished buildings outside of the camps, explained Kaitlin Heatwole, the Iraq program coordinator for MCC. But the space, privacy and safety displaced people seek means they are less likely to receive assistance from international organizations like the United Nations World Food Program.
ZSVP photo/Waleed Muzoory
“The people living outside the camps are much smaller numbers of people and they’re much harder to access and identify. They’re spread out throughout houses instead of in the camp and so it’s harder to communicate with them,” Heatwole said.
In this context, MCC is working with its partner Zakho Small Villages Project (ZSVP) to meet the needs of these vulnerable people.
“There’s a huge humanitarian response to the conflict in Iraq,” Heatwole says. “There are all sorts of international and Iraqi organizations working here, but this system has gaps and people fall through the cracks. In order for the system to work, MCC is coordinating very closely with that system to find out where the gaps are and to try and support people like these whose needs aren’t being met by the system in place.”
One of the gaps was in Hammam al-Alil, a town south of Mosul. On April 19 and 20, ZSVP distributed a month’s supply of food and basic household items to 999 families, about 5,500 people, who are living outside of camps after fleeing their homes in Mosul city during the past month. This work is funded with money from MCC’s Syria and Iraq crisis response fund and through its account at Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
ZSVP photo/Waleed Muzoory
Through this support from MCC, families will be able to feed themselves with tomato paste, oil, chick peas, lentils, rice, flour, bulgur wheat, salt, sugar and tea. In addition, each family received kitchen items to prepare the food, including pots, frying pan and kitchen utensils and essential household items like foam mattresses and hygiene items.
ZSVP also is extending an MCC-sponsored emergency food assistance program in three towns north of Mosul to address the needs of 1,050 long-term displaced families. This project has already provided two years of emergency food assistance for up to 1,000 families displaced by the conflict since 2014.
This year, MCC also sent two shipments of blankets, school kits and hygiene items worth $269,088 to vulnerable Iraqis, including those displaced from Mosul, through another partner, Iraqi Al-Amal Association.
Heatwole explained that civilians’ lives are uprooted no matter who instigates violence. People lose everything when they flee their homes.
“No matter if it was the original occupation by ISIS (in 2014) or the effort now to reclaim the occupied city, the conflict is hugely disruptive for the people there,” she says.
In addition to relief assistance, MCC is responding to the conflict in Syria and Iraq by supporting peacebuilding, livelihood and education projects in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.