Iraq Dispatches: Relief
With over 300,000 homeless residents of Fallujah scattered about central Iraq, daily life for these refugees is a reality filled with searching for food medical attention, warmth and clean water.
December 08, 2004
"Iraq is burning with wrath, anger and sadness... the people of Fallujah
are dear to us. They are our brothers and sisters and we are so
saddened by what is happening in that city."
There are no words better to describe the situation in Iraq, and
particularly Fallujah, than these of Dr. Wamid Omar Nathmi, a senior
political scientist at Baghdad University.
With over 300,000 homeless residents of Fallujah scattered about
central Iraq, daily life for these refugees is a reality filled with searching for food medical attention, warmth and clean water.
Mohammad Ali is a refugee at a camp on the Baghdad University campus. He was crying when I interviewed him, his large body shuddering as he lamented his
"We did not feel that there is Eid after Ramadan this year because of
our situation being so bad. All we have is more fasting."
A man with one leg sitting near the mosque nodding while he smokes his
cigarette while Mohammad continues, "I would like to ask the whole
world-why is this? I tell the presidents of the Arab and Muslim
countries to wake up! Wake up please! We are being killed, we are
refugees from our houses, our children have nothing-not even shoes to
wear! Wake up! Wake up!"
He was weeping even more when he added, "I left Fallujah yesterday and
I am handicapped. I asked God to save us but our house was bombed and I
Another man, Khalil, pointed to several nearby children at the camp and
said, "Eid is over. Ramadan is over-and the kids are remaining without
even a smile. They have nothing and nowhere to go. We used to take them
to parks to amuse them, but now we don't even have a house for them."
He continued while pointing at the children, along with some women
nearby, "What about the children? What did they do? What about the women? I can't describe the situation in Fallujah and the condition of the people-Fallujah is suffering too much, it is almost gone now."
He then explained, "We got some supplies from the good people of
Baghdad, and some volunteer doctors came on their own with some
medicines, but they ran out daily because conditions are so bad. We saw
nothing from the Ministry of Health-no medicines or doctors or
He said those who left Fallujah did not think they would be gone so
long, so they brought only their summer clothes. Now it is quite cold
at night, down to 5 degrees C at night and windy much of the time. Khalil
added, "We need more clothes. It's a disaster we are living in here at
this camp. We are living like dogs and the kids do not have enough
It's a situation similar to that in most of the refugee camps I've seen
But there is a small light amidst this darkness. One international
organization in particular, which shall remain nameless, managed to
raise funds to support many of the refugees of Fallujah.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, two of the doctors who are
receiving financial donations from the organization have told of their
accomplishments to date. Under their supervision and assistance, small
relief groups have worked tirelessly to distribute the supplies
provided with the international donations.
At the aforementioned camp alone, thanks to donations this group
managed to send to Baghdad, over $500 worth of blankets, sweaters for children, and gas heaters were provided.
Over $1,500 worth of blankets, heaters and portable stoves were
distributed to another four refugee camps in Baghdad as well.
A team of volunteer Iraqi doctors was quickly organized to purchase
needed medications to treat refugees. The most common problems in the
camps are influenza, pneumonia, colds, diarrhea and other water borne
Water tanks, pipes, water pumps, and water purification materials are
needed desperately in most refugee camps. Over $3,000 of donations have
been used to supply a refugee camp in Baghdad with what they need to
provide potable water. Of course, much more is needed.
Now, well over $9,000 of general antibiotics like cipro, tagamet and amoxicillin have been distributed. Needles, sterile gloves, pain medications, gauze and basic first aid materials have also been provided to three different refugee camps and used to treat suffering refugees by small groups of volunteer doctors.
Relief volunteers have even managed to get trunk loads of medicines
and supplements to camps outside of Baghdad.
A doctor in Amiriyat al-Fallujah who received much needed medicines and
supplies was brimming with gratitude.
The main hospital there where he works, is struggling to treat 1,500
patients each day. Before the small city was inundated with refugees,
the hospital saw just 300 patients per day.
"With hundreds of refugee families here, we have not been able to treat
the people. I can't thank you enough for this. These are exactly the
supplies we need," he told the volunteers who brought the medicine, "It is a
good start, but of course we can use more, because we are running out of
medicines every day."
In addition to this, volunteers have plans in the works to make a
another delivery there soon.
Over $1,500 was used to purchase 250 warm blankets and 50 gas heaters
for a large refugee camp near Fallujah.
Another $5,000 has provided portable kerosene heaters, cooking stoves,
and fuel. These have been distributed mainly at the Al-Amiryah
mosque-the main one there that is next to the bomb shelter
memorial-which is where they are distributing these supplies to
refugees staying in that area. These have been critical with the cold weather now in Baghdad.
Some of the last refugees to leave their homes are in Husabe, a small
city not far from Fallujah. 234 refugees there who arrived 11 days ago
received $2,000 worth of blankets, heaters, food and jackets.
While needs are assessed, more of this money is being spent in camps
where there continues to be little or no relief from the Ministry of
Health. With most NGO's having left Iraq because of the security
situation, this grass-roots effort has filled some of the huge gaps
left in their absence.
"I've been praying for someone to help us here," said Suthir, a mother
of six small children at a refugee camp in the Amiryah district of
Baghdad. "And God has taken care of us now. We've been so cold at
night, but now we finally have a heater."
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(c)2004 Dahr Jamail.
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