Sinjar: families put aside their own problems to support thousands of people fleeing violence

Published: 30 June 2014 14:44 CET

By Ibrahim Malla, IFRC

Sinjar is a town in the governorate of Ninawa, in Western north west Iraq. It is home to about  23,000 people and the local branch of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society has 40 volunteers. While the branch has dealt with crises before, it is likely that they were not expecting to see their town expand to host 70,000 more people. But with families fleeing violence in the nearby city of Tal Afar, that day has come.

Most of the newcomers are women and children who have made the 50km journey on foot with little but the clothes they were wearing. The trip is a difficult one, and most of those who reached Sinjar arrived in need of basic care.

As with many communities forced to deal with the effects of mass migration, the people of Sinjar showed its great humanitarian heart.

The Red Crescent volunteers are leading the humanitarian operations, they have been working for 17 days – all day, every day – to provide shelter, food, water, ice, milk for babies and hot meals every day.

“It is a challenge to find place for everybody,” said Muhammad Shariif, the branch director. “We are hosting people in schools, mosques, unfinished buildings, we are offering our own houses and places and even the local priest is offering the church to host some families, they have already given two houses belonging to the church.”

Sharif said that everyone in the town was putting aside their own issues, including their own poverty, to help. “All the volunteers in the branch are working hard and giving their best, but we are worried for all the need we have to satisfy and we will need more support if the emergency situation will last longer,” he said. “Some unfinished buildings are a shelter for 150 people and the conditions are very difficult for everybody.”

Azad Khodor is 20 years old and he has been a volunteer in the Iraqi Red Crescent for six years. “I have never before seen so many people in need and we are doing our best to help everyone,” he said. “Yesterday one case in particular made me very sad: an old man was living in an unfinished building and he didn’t have anything, not even a mattress to sleep on, so I got some basic items and he was very happy after I helped him, this filled my heart with joy. I love the job we are doing.”