Interview: Continued Relief in Iraq
How has Open Doors been supporting the churches with relief in the past year? What did this look like practically?
Through local partners Open Doors cooperated with a wide variety of denominations providing food parcels and hygiene baskets to about 10,000 families per month. Additionally, we handed out vouchers for clothing and provided support in several medical emergencies. We supported the churches to take extra care of youth and children, creating child-friendly spaces, for example.
The relief is provided through church leaders in order to evenly provide food parcels, hygiene packs and other support to the refugees. In some areas, there are interdenominational committees of church leaders working together to coordinate the relief. The churches and committees are well organized and lists with names are provided so to make sure families do not receive multiple rations if that is not intended.
The parcels are prepared by local partners, with internally displaced people (IDPs) actively involved in the process. In Erbil, the preparation of the parcels is generating an income for 86 IDP families. The parcels are then brought by truck or pickup to the church centers, compounds or the buildings where IDP families live. The frequency of this varies per region. Most commonly, the food is delivered once a month or once every 45 days.
Apart from this ‘pure’ relief, strategic and long-term support is also given in the fields of the distribution of Bibles and other Christian materials, social economic development, vocational training and trauma care trainings.
A very small number of families have been able to return to villages on the Nineveh plain, which are deemed relatively safe. They also have received support.
What has been the impact of the relief?
Without the support of NGO’s like Open Doors, the situation for Christians would have turned out to be much worse than it already is. The churches would have been able to take care of them for a while, but need organizations like ours to be able to care for their people long-term. It may have led to an even larger number of Christians planning to leave Iraq for good.
Fr. Barnaba, from a Syriac Orthodox monastery, recently told one of our partners in Iraq: “How would we be able to continue our lives as Christians without your organization supporting us?
The IDPs would have been miserable if your organization would not have supported them. The Iraqi churches may have supported IDPs for two months or three at the max. But now, we are in the tenth months after IS came to the Nineveh plain, so we could not do without your help. Always in our preaching and in our prayers we also take time to thank God for the organizations supporting us. We cannot continue without them.”
A Christian from Qaraqosh commented: “It would have been completely different without relief. When we first arrived [in August 2014] we did not expect such great support for us. Also, the people living in Ankawa really took care of us very well, they would cook but also bring clothes, sometimes even new clothes with the tags in it still. Very quickly the support started to come from the churches who, in their turn, received support from various international organizations.”
How is the help of Open Doors through its local partners valued?
We are very happy to hear that Open Doors’ support via local partners and churches is very much valued. According to the people receiving the packages, the quality of the packages is high. The relief is seen as one of the most stable sources of provision.
A Christian woman from Ashti camp – a fairly new camp, housing about 1,000 families – says: “Your organization is the most stable provider in coupons and food parcels. There are other organizations and countries who sometimes provide help. We appreciate that, but that is very irregular and then we do not know if we can count upon that or not.”
Her family receives a food parcel and hygiene pack every 45 days. She explains that some items in the ration last for this time, but that others run out more quickly. “My mom loves to keep the caravan very clean, so we often run out cleaning stuff before we receive a new package.”
Please mind that this situation described in the previous paragraph is particular for this camp and may differ in other places where other organizations may be involved in providing support.