Iraq crisis: Extreme heat, lack of water and medicine threaten displaced minorities
“Thousands of people in need remain unreachable”
The number of displaced in Iraq continues to rise rapidly. In less than a week, over 200,000 people in north Iraq – most of them Christians – were driven to flee by the terrorist group Islamic State. “There’s a massive stream of refugees fleeing across the border inside Syria and back again into the Kurdish region near Dohuk,” reports Oliver Hochedez, who is leading Malteser International’s response team in Erbil. “Extremely high temperatures – up to 45 degrees Celcius – and little water supply are causing severe health threats to those fleeing.”
In the capital of the Kurdistan autonomous region, 24 improvised camps have been formed, mainly in schools or church grounds. “The help from selfless neighbors and countless volunteers have prevented a disaster,” Hochedez tells. “But soon, their resources will be exhausted. Providing everything the thousands of displaced need to survive is a massive undertaking. Still, thousands of people remain unreachable.”
One of the major challenges is the current health care situation, Hochedez reports. “We’ve been seeing frequent cases of heat stroke and dehydration caused by the extreme heat and the difficult conditions during their journey here. Diarrhea and skin infections are also common due to the lack of water,” says Dr. Joost Butenop, the team’s health expert.
Malteser International is organizing the distribution of medicines, drinking water and hygiene items with its partners on the ground. The response team will continue to assess the needs on the ground and prepare additional relief efforts.