Caritas is preparing for a wave of people fleeing the Iraqi city of Mosul as Iraqi, Kurdish and coalition forces battle to retake it from Islamic State (ISIS). Between 1.2 to 1.5 million people could be affected and 200,000 could flee in the first few weeks. While the weather is around 20° at night, the temperatures will decrease in the coming months. “They will need shelter, food, healthcare, clean water and sanitation and other aid like blankets and cooking equipment,” said Nabil Nissan, director of Caritas Iraq.
Caritas Iraq and US Caritas organisation Catholic Relief Services (CRS) work in partnership through more than 300 staff and volunteers, with support from Caritas from around the world. 120 staff in the north and south have been readied to help people fleeing Mosul. “Caritas has trained staff with good experience in place supported by volunteers with wide knowledge of emergency work,” said Nabil Nissan.
Aid agencies have created emergency sites to accommodate people and supplies are being prepared. Fears are growing that due to underfunding there is not enough aid in place. That could lead to a humanitarian disaster. “The situation is unclear, but the indicators show that it will be hard to contain the humanitarian crisis,” said Nabil Nissan.
Quarter of a million helped so far
Since January 2014, the violence in northern and central Iraq has caused devastation and mass displacement. Last year, more than 7,500 people were killed and 3.3 million people fled to other parts of the country. More than 80 percent of the displaced people are living outside of the organised camps, with host families, or in makeshift or unfinished dwellings. In all, nearly 10 million people in Iraq need humanitarian assistance.
Caritas has supported more than 250, 000 displaced since the fall of Mosul to ISIS in 2014 by providing shelter, water and sanitation, as well as living supplies, education, cash, psychosocial, child friendly spaces. The work continues.
Caritas members have supported formal schools through teacher trainings, learning materials, classroom construction and upgrades to provide psychosocial support and quality learning to more than 4,000 children. And the child support centres run by Caritas mean thousands of Iraqi children can relax and play in a safe place.
When Fallujah was retaken from ISIS in June 2016, CRS and Caritas Iraq distributed kitchen sets, hygiene items and coolers for food to 11,000 people. With CRS, Caritas Iraq will soon complete 90 transitional shelters for 500 highly vulnerable people and 18 communal sanitation centres.
Peace is possible for Iraq
If ISIS lose Mosul, the Caritas Iraq director says that peace building work will need to be done to stop “revenge, build a concept of citizenship, prevent demographic change in the area and equality in the future running of the city. ” Half the Christian minority who fled in 2014 say they will return if security allows.
Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako of the Chaldean Church called on all Iraqis to avoid “accusations and blame” and “waivering self and factional interests”. He said the “establishment of a genuine and civil democracy” is the only way for the country to recover.
Prayer for the people of Mosul from Caritas Iraq
O Lord, O God of my salvation, and Light of my life … day after day You reveal to me your love, your greatness and your interest and care for me.
In distant past darkness overshadowed our towns and villages … destruction were total and death was drawing near…
Everything was heading towards termination … but I sensed your presence amid all the destruction…
I saw you carrying on your arm children, women and elderly crossing the sea of sin, violence and persecution, leading them towards the shore of peace and tranquility.
We cried a lot that day, we had lost everything but Your love was in us, it pushed us to carry on and continue, it gave us hope of return…
Return, not to the land and homes, the return to the human beings, the relationship with others and life with others.
How beautiful it is, O God, to liberate man from the evil of the arrogant and authoritarian, how beautiful it is that different people live together.
Your voice is still ringing in my ears my God I hear you whisper … I love you.
Today I call upon you Heavenly Father for the children of my country … the tents are still overcrowded, and winter is knocking on the door.
There are still terrified children, and scared women, and men with the elderly who are confused, where to turn to.
For each of the besieged I call to You my God have Mercy on them and have Mercy on us.
I am scared … scared that your word doesn’t find the listening ear and merciful heart.
I am afraid even of myself … confused / torn between the joy of the displaced with their return and the sadness of the besieged for their displacement…
I will leave everything in your hands, because I am sure that you my God, are the God of everyone … even those bad guys, I know that you love them and how much you would like their repentance.
I ask you, O Lord, before heading to my bed, kindle the fire of Your love in the hearts of the frightened, remove from the bad guys and the proud the spirit of bloodshed/slaughter and destruction, Cultivate in the hearts of the rulers the spirit of responsibility and concern toward others, strengthen the hearts of mothers, Fill the eyes of the children of the light of Your face…
I will sleep … and I’m comfortable with that tomorrow, the sun will shine… the light of Your gorgeous face Oh my God.
Download the prayer in English and Arabic