Inside an Evacuee Camp in Northern Iraq

November 7, 2016 • Iraq
Nearly 30,000 people have already been displaced by the crisis in Mosul. Many families escape with only the clothes on their backs.
Kaitlyn Lahm is the media relations coordinator for Samaritan’s Purse. She is currently covering our relief efforts among displaced families escaping from Mosul into northern Iraq.

Walking into the dusty camp, I realize I am no longer reading the news reports—I am living them.

I stare out of the chain-link fence that surrounds the camp in Khazir and watch as thousands of refugees arrive in a convoy of military vehicles, buses, and personal cars—each packed with Iraqis searching and longing for a better life.

The vehicles emptied of refugees and displaced people and immediately turned back toward the front lines, ready to again make the trip. As I watched the people, I realized their hands were empty. They brought no luggage, no bags, and no supplies. Many arrived with only the clothes on their backs. Some women’s arms were burdened with babies and young children and they lacked anything to ease the hardship of the road ahead.

Once through the security checkpoints, their eyes filled with fear, shock, and sadness. After years of living under threat of ISIS, they have finally escaped—but their freedom is costly.

Instead of living under threat of attack, they now live inside a fence with thousands of other refugees. Many lost loved ones in the process or were separated from their families. They gave up their home, possessions, and life as they know it. They didn’t ask for this. They never wanted to carry the name “internally displaced person” or “refugee;” yet they find themselves living in a village of tents.

The situation will likely get worse before it gets better. As military forces advance into Mosul’s city center, more and more Iraqis will be forced to flee for their lives. Despite this tragedy, there is still hope.

Samaritan’s Purse is working to bring displaced people hope by distributing food, water, blankets, cook stoves, hygiene kits, and other life-saving supplies. Finally, they have something to call their own. Women can cook a meal for their family. Men can provide shelter from the cold. A new sense of normalcy can be established.

Slowly, I see trust settle into their eyes and hope buoy their steps. They are resilient and strong.

As one beneficiary, Ibrahim, said, “The life keeps going, so we need to keep going.”

Northern Iraq
Northern Iraq Projects Samaritan's Purse continues to help meet the long-term physical and spiritual needs of those displaced by ISIS. Among our projects, we are offering a variety of livelihoods programs to assist the Yazidi people, and we have set up child-friendly spaces for boys and girls to learn and grow while staying in camps as well. We are also facilitating the return of Christian families to their homes and churches in the Plains of Nineveh. They need our help to repair damage, replace doors, windows, and fixtures, and paint over ISIS graffiti as they reclaim their towns in the Name of Jesus.

Northern Iraq Projects 013929