A displaced family in Iraq receives UMCOR hygiene kits and other basic necessities such shampoo, blankets, and diapers for newborn needs.
By David Tereshchuk*
May 19, 2015—As civil war in Syria staggers into a fifth year, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is responding to basic, often-overlooked needs both in Syria and in neighboring Iraq, as both countries also face the challenge of persistent attacks by the Islamic State, known also as IS or ISIS.
“In a complex crisis like those in Syria and Iraq, we see our role as providing a small but strong light in the midst of great darkness, as we work with partner organizations to supply basic needs,” said Francesco Paganini, UMCOR executive secretary for International Disaster Response.
|Supplies are organized prior to distribution to displaced families in Iraq. Photo: GlobalMedic
Since late 2013, UMCOR has channeled more than half a million dollars to simple, well-targeted initiatives in Syria and Iraq, and to other countries in the region hosting a total of more than 4 million Syrian refugees.
A recent UMCOR grant to partner GlobalMedic, for example, is assisting the Toronto-based organization in its work with displaced civilian families in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where almost 2 million people have taken refuge from violence perpetrated primarily by ISIS.
Temporary housing, for nearly half the displaced population in Kurdistan, according to the United Nations, has sprung up in the form of spontaneously accessed communal shelters in schools and abandoned or unfinished buildings.
Typically, families have left their homes without adequate supplies and equipment for a long stay, and so the UMCOR-funded provision by GlobalMedic includes simple supplies such as a space heater, mattresses, blankets, and coverlets, as well as soap, diapers, and sanitary pads.
Displaced families in camps
|A beneficiary in Iraq carries an UMCOR bag full of the hygiene supplies that will meet the needs of every member in his family. Photo: GlobalMedic
In Syria, where ISIS has taken advantage of the long-running civil conflict, UMCOR has issued another recent grant to Turkey-based partner, International Blue Crescent (IBC), which is working with displaced people in four camps near the Syria-Turkey border.
Notable among the camps is one called Bab el Salaam, meaning “Gate of Peace.” This camp has become home to 1,695 Syrian families, comprising a total of 8,354 displaced individuals.
UMCOR funding is allowing IBC to address the kind of unwanted consequence that often afflicts refugees and displaced persons’ lives—mass outbreaks of scabies and lice. In Bab el Salaam almost every child has been affected with lice.
IBC is responding by prioritizing a simple, small-scale intervention: the distribution of hygiene kits to every family. These kits contain anti-lice spray bottles, cream to combat scabies, plus soap, shampoo, and wipes—all of which will make life in Bab el Salaam a little more bearable.
The anti-lice and anti-scabies activity, Paganini said, “is a vital need.”
The crisis in Syria is long and complex, but through simple, targeted interventions such as this one, UMCOR is providing relief to some of the most vulnerable populations impacted by it.
Your gift to UMCOR International Disaster Response, Advance #982450, helps alleviate suffering as a result of disaster or crisis in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere around the world.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who regularly contributes to UMCOR.org.