‘Life was beautiful, we had a home and our animals to look after,’ said Ahklas, a young mother at a camp in Northern Iraq for those who have fled from the Mosul offensive. ‘But when ISIS came to my village, we were so scared. At night I was not sleeping because I could hear the shots of weapons, and my children would wake up crying.’
Ahklas and her family escaped during the night with 16 people in their vehicle. They now live in a tent within the camp, with no possessions. ‘It was too difficult to gather any of our items or clothes – we had to leave quickly after we saw two families near us get killed in an attack. I could only think about saving my family,’ Ahklas explains.
More than 81,000 people have fled Mosul since the offensive began on 17 October 2016, many with just the clothes on their backs. Tearfund’s Betsy Baldwin said, ‘In the last two weeks the temperature in the camps has dropped to zero or -1ºC at night, yet thousands of people are arriving just in t-shirts, having left everything behind.’
Within the camp, Tearfund has set up a clothes shop so families can shop for their own needs and have warm clothing to wear for winter, paying with vouchers they were given. ‘We wanted to make people feel valued, so we created an environment which feels like a shop like, not just like another distribution centre. Shopping is a normal activity that you can’t usually do in a camp,’ said Tearfund’s Anna Chilvers.
‘These clothes from Tearfund will help so much, as winter is coming and we have nothing,’ said Ahklas, ‘I was able to get what I needed for my children, my husband and myself to be warm.’
Now Ahklas sleeps through the night and is grateful her family are safe. Yet, she lives in continual hope she may be able to return to her home and her village once more, and life will be beautiful again.
This Christmastime, lift up families, such as Ahklas’, seeking refuge – pray that they would not be separated during displacements and that family units will remain strong.
Pray that the people of Mosul will be able to leave the city safely to access aid when necessary, and will be protected from the violence taking place.
Pray for wisdom and the protection of Tearfund’s staff who have been working hard to respond to the humanitarian needs of those fleeing Mosul.
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