Many people seek temporary shelter in Iraq

Joe Cropp / IFRC
Joe Cropp / IFRC
Joe Cropp / IFRC
Joe Cropp / IFRC

The increasing number of people fleeing their home in northern Iraq is adding greater pressure to already crowded shelters. The Red Crescent estimates that there are more than 400,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Iraq, where the water resources, scarce before the latest crisis, are dwindling in the current heat wave.

Yassemin’s family is one of the hundreds of families who had to abandon their property and possessions to escape from Mosul. They are now staying in the town of Sinjar, taking shelter in a large hall that they share with 200 other displaced families.

'We would like to get to somewhere safe, away from the fighting. But right now we don't know where we could go,’ says Yassemin. ‘We have nothing.'

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), some half a million people have already fled from Mosul. In various parts of northern Iraq, thousands of internally displaced people are living in temporary shelters, many of which are already full.

Some have taken refuge with relatives or friends, which can mean that up to five families are living in dwellings that would normally house only a single family. Those with nowhere else to go, sleep in schools, mosques or unfinished building sites.

Help is needed for increasing numbers of IDPs

The Iraqi Red Crescent Society estimates that there are already more than 400,000 internally displaced people in Iraq, as the country’s unstable security situation has caused thousands to flee from their home. Most of them have sought safety in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

Since the beginning of June, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society and its 4,000 volunteers and employees have distributed food, water and tents to people who have had to leave their home. So far, their aid efforts have reachedsome 200,000 people.

The Society’s President, Dr Yassin al-Ma’amouri, warns that escalating violence will cause more and more people to flee their home. The Red Crescent is, at the same time, also helping refugees from Syria.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is cooperating with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society and has launched an appeal for emergency aid to help the Iraqi Red Crescent Society respond to the growing need for assistance. Many refugees now depend on the food distributed by the Red Crescent.

Diseases spread in cramped quarters

The crisis in Iraq means that people in some areas have no access to clean water or healthcare. High summer temperatures have caused a higher consumption of water in Sinjar, which in some temporary shelters has prompted fears of a water shortage.

‘The rising number of refugees is overcrowding the already cramped refugee camps,’ says Dr Yassin al-Ma'amouri. ‘Families who have taken refugees into their home are running out of resources and simply cannot afford to take in any more refugees.’

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that in some parts of Iraq, people now run a high risk of contracting life-threatening diseases, such as measles or polio. Contagion spreads fast in crowded quarters.