By Monica Awad
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic, 2 November 2016
Children in and around the city of Mosul in Iraq have endured extreme suffering for more than two years. Many of them were forcibly displaced, trapped between fighting lines, or even caught in the cross-fire.
“We escaped the violence to protect our ten children.” says Ibtisam.
Ibtisam is one of the 927 Iraqi refugees who recently arrived to Al Hol camp in the north-eastern town in Syria’s Hasakeh Governorate, close to the Iraq-Syria border. Since earlier 2016, around 4,600 Iraqis fled to the camp seeking refuge.
“We used up all of our savings, and we sold everything to escape the fighting,” adds Ibtisam with a grin.
The family first moved to Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq, where they lived for two years. Escaping the hails of bullets for the second time, they sought refuge in Al Hol camp.
The arduous journey to Al Hol camp was traumatizing for Ibtisam and her children, adding to the multiple sufferings they had endured.
“The trip was torturous, we escaped cross fire,” recalls Ibtisam. “We had no food, no water and the children were exhausted.”
Many of these families have suffered brutal situations under extremist rule, often without access to basic services, including medical care.
Emergencies are stressful for everyone. But they can be downright horrifying for a mother who cannot secure medical care for her child. “I need medical care for my son,” says Ibtisam pointing to large mass on her child’s scalp.
Most school-aged children who arrived in Al-Hol camp lost at least two years of education, or have been separated from family members.
“I want to see my brothers, I have not seen them for two years,” weeps Hamzeh, a 13-year old boy as he shares the harrowing ordeals of enduring dire conditions in Mosul. Hamzeh is one of the many children who has not seen family members for two years.
Determined to survive
The displaced Iraqi families in Al Hol camp live in tents, with little insulation from the heat or cold weather. They struggle to survive on basic commodities provided by humanitarian agencies.
“Every child has endured massive suffering in trying to escape the violence“ says Ershad Karim, Chief of UNICEF Field Office in Qamishli. “Uprooted, some of them several times, they face another bitter winter season under harsh conditions.”
In a nearby tent, 30-year old Rahaf is building a fire to prepare tea for her six children. “We are trying to survive in difficult conditions,” she says. “Life is becoming unbearable.”
Rahaf’s family also fled from Mosul seeking refuge in Al Hol camp. Desperate to make ends meet, Rahaf and her family sold all their personal belongings. They are now among the thousands of families in the camp relying on humanitarian assistance they receive from aid agencies.
With other UN agencies, UNICEF is working to provide children and their families with life-saving water, food, and shelter.
“We are working hard to bring back a sense of normalcy to children who are going through horrific experiences,” says Karim.