UNICEF this week managed to reach Al Houd, a town just south of Mosul that was retaken by Iraqi security forces just two days prior, and deliver clean water to some of the thousands of families that have been caught up in this conflict.
“This means that for one week, we have managed to help the lives of 3,000 children and their families who have been the victims of the terrible conflict that has swept over much of Iraq,” said UNICEF Country Representative in Iraq. “It may seem a small achievement, but it is one that will bring a week of respite for the children and families who have already suffered so much.”
Zainab fled al Houd with her four daughters two days before Iraqi security forces entered. She and her family had been living under the control of the so-called Islamic State (ISIL/Daesh) for over two years. For her, clean water and sanitation services may make the difference between living in a camp or returning to her village.
“I want to go home, to my family, put my children back in school, and get clothes for my family,” she said. When ISIL took over the village they also took Zainab’s house and used it as an office. For the past two years, she and her children lived with relatives.
But she never felt safe. “We were scared, hungry and in need all the time. I was scared about my children because I have four girls and I was afraid they would take them as they did in other villages,” she said, wrapping a protective arm around her young daughters.
“My son is only six years old, so he was not taken. But older boys were taken for recruitment, or trained to be informants by parties to the conflict,” she said, using a local Arabic term for the armed group.
As part of its response to the Mosul crisis, UNICEF is providing water and sanitation services and has emergency vaccination and psycho-social teams ready to reach those children most in need, as well as plans to create child-friendly spaces in emergency camps being built for the displaced by the conflict.
“A lot of these children are in a state of shock, all they need now is a safe space to play, learn and aspire,” said Peter Hawkins, the UNICEF Representative in Iraq. For the past weeks, many of al Houd’s children and families have been falling ill after being forced to drink unclean water from the river.
Despite terrible road conditions, blinding clouds of dust and the proximity to the frontline, UNICEF and its local partner WEO (Women Empowerment Organization) delivered enough bottled water for 1,500 families for a week, and hygiene kits with buckets, soap and detergent. UNICEF will now assess the needs of the children and families in al Houd and move to a longer term solution for the town.
And every day, every week, UNICEF will be bringing fresh water, showers, latrines to those who need it most. For weeks, we have been prepositioning supplies so that we can bring these life saving help to children and families wherever they may be.