Iraq: Inside an Emergency Response

14 March 2018

Iraq: Inside an Emergency Response

For three years, aid workers had been providing relief to families as they fled from armed groups in Hawiga, Iraq. Medair knew that many families were still suffering inside the city, but we were unable to reach them. 

In 2017, Medair and the humanitarian community were advised that fighting was anticipated in Hawiga, and mass displacement to the surrounding area was likely. We didn’t know when it would happen, but we knew thousands of families would be fleeing the conflict in urgent need of health care, safe water, and critical supplies.

To prepare, we coordinated our response with other agencies, hired and trained more health staff, and pre-positioned teams and supplies, including hygiene kits and latrine construction materials, for rapid front-line relief.

In September, the conflict in Iraq reached Hawiga and tens of thousands of people fled their homes. They walked for up to 12 hours, many in bare feet, over land that was mined with explosive devices. Some needed to swim or wade in the Little Zab river to make it to safety.

At five strategic locations, Medair teams welcomed the fleeing families and provided them with medical care, safe water, sanitation facilities, hygiene supplies and basic shelter kits as needed.

During the intense days of the Hawiga emergency, Medair’s mobile health teams provided more than 1,500 patient consultations and we distributed more than 1,700 hygiene or shelter kits. Our WASH response installed emergency facilities (latrines, showers, elevated water tank), cleaned and desludged latrines, distributed bottled water, trucked in emergency water, and promoted healthy hygiene practices.

“We prepared for months but when people started arriving, everything happened very quickly,” said Dr Joy Wright, Medair relief worker. “Having an experienced team made the difference.”

Waded and his wife Sameera, both 79 years old, fled the fighting and arrived safely with five grandchildren. Two grandsons received care for wounds on their feet.

“I am at the end of my life. I shouldn’t be wearing dirty clothes,” smiled Waded.

Sameera has difficulty walking due to swelling in her legs. She cried when telling us how she was carried by men they met along the road. After connecting her with Handicap International, she received a new walker.

“My wife is my soul,” said Waded. “I fell in love with her in primary school and I love her to this day. I never want to be without her.” 

Hygiene kits were put to immediate use after hours of walking in the dust and heat. Medair’s Dr Ibrahim spoke with a young man with cerebral palsy who received treatment for a kidney infection and anaemia.

Yusif sustained a serious leg injury from shrapnel when his village was hit by an airstrike. He had not seen a doctor since it was first treated three weeks before. He was nervous and sat alone, even among a crowd of people.

Upon examination, Medair doctors found that his leg has become infected, and advised him that he would need surgery as soon as he could get to a hospital. Since surgery was not possible in that field location, our doctors removed as much infected tissue as they could, and provided him with daily cleaning and re-dressing of the wound.

Your monthly gifts make it possible for Medair’s relief teams to prepare for emergencies in advance and respond to them without delay. Every second counts when lives are on the line. Please join our vital team of monthly supporters.

Medair's work in Iraq is supported by Swiss Solidarity, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, SlovakAid, US Agency for International Development, and the generous support of private donors.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.

More stories like this

More about this region