As more than 350,000 Iraqis have fled violence in and around the city of Mosul, Mennonite Central Committee is providing food and household supplies to those who slip through the safety net of other humanitarian organizations.
In Mosul, civilians are directed to emergency camps away from the front lines as Iraqi security forces, international coalition forces and other armed groups battle to reclaim the city from ISIS. However, many of the camps are full beyond capacity and unsuitable for long-term displacement.
Some people choose to stay with family or friends or to live in unfinished buildings outside the camps, said Kaitlin Heatwole, MCC Iraq program coordinator. But the space, privacy and safety displaced people seek means they are less likely to receive assistance from international organizations like the United Nations World Food Program.
“The people living outside the camps are much smaller numbers of people, and they’re much harder to access and identify,” she said. “They’re spread out throughout houses instead of in the camp, and so it’s harder to communicate with them.”
MCC is working with a partner, Zakho Small Villages Project, or ZSVP, to meet the needs of these vulnerable people.
“There’s a huge humanitarian response to the conflict in Iraq,” Heatwole said. “There are all sorts of international and Iraqi organizations working here, but this system has gaps, and people fall through the cracks. In order for the system to work, MCC is coordinating very closely with that system to find out where the gaps are.”
One of the gaps was in Hammam al-Alil, a town south of Mosul. On April 19-20, ZSVP distributed a month’s supply of food and household items to 999 families — about 5,500 people living outside camps after fleeing their homes in Mosul. This work is funded with money from MCC’s Syria and Iraq crisis response fund and its account at Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
ZSVP also is extending an MCC-sponsored program in three towns north of Mosul that has already provided two years of emergency food assistance for up to 1,000 families.
This year, MCC also sent two shipments of blankets, school kits and hygiene items worth $269,088 to vulnerable Iraqis.