Bzeibiz, IRAQ – On June 17, the second event under Soccer Salam’s summer cycle successfully distributed food items, medications, and water tanks in Bzeibiz, an area previously untouched by humanitarian aid.
Our partner on the ground, the Iraq Health Aid Organization (IHAO), led by Hala al-Sarraf, facilitated the visit to Bzeibiz accompanied by another NGO partner who wished to report on the distribution and to contribute aid efforts to the area. The more International NGOs involved with our visits the better! With NGOs reviewing and circulating news of the realities of the humanitarian crisis, Soccer Salam is able to earn more support towards helping overcome the damaging effects of ISIS on the displaced children and families of Iraq.
IHAO’s visit to Bzeibiz was approved by Iraq’s Office of People’s Affairs under the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, who supplied them with vehicle passes. The distribution team expected to reach Bzeibiz early in the morning, but due to reports of car bombs in the area, two truckloads of humanitarian aid goods and two cars were not allowed to pass through the required security checkpoint until 3:00 pm. The delay of the two-hour drive from Baghdad into the heat of the day added to the preexisting stress of maintaining safety in a desolate and remote area of the desert of the Anbar province. Soccer Salam’s partners pushed forward, determined to deliver aid even in the face of danger.
Wednesday’s mission is the largest thus far for Soccer Salam’s summer aid. The distribution included several key elements to summertime survival for the IDPs in Bzeibiz: medicine, water, food and other personal items.
Medications were donated to IHAO, who generously contributed them to the Soccer Salam project to maximize the benefits of aid distribution. Two doctors and a pharmacist helped to collect and distribute 100 bottles of 23 kinds of medication in an effort to combat some of the most common diseases found in IDP camps, such as chronic infections of the skin and lungs, fungal infections, worms, and others. According to the WHO/EWARN, the leading causes of death in IDP camps include Acute Respiratory Tract Infections and skin diseases like scabies. Among those affected by illness, 31% are children below the age of 5.
100 water tanks and tubes were distributed to 100 tents where it is common for multiple families reside in a single tent. Water sanitation tablets were also given to these families. This is the first time the families of Bzeibiz have ever had water containers – before our visit they collected water in stagnant cement storage basins and shared it amongst all of the occupants of the camp.
Food baskets were delivered to families who had not been reached during our previous visit to Bzeibiz, and an additional 30 baskets were distributed to the families of a third camp near Bzeibiz by the IHAO teams. With Ramadan now fully underway, these food baskets provide the opportunity for displaced families to safely participate in fasting and to enjoy Iftar (breaking of the fast). The celebration of Ramadan is one way for these families to escape the violence and desolation around them, if only for a month.
A colleague of Hala al-Sarraf, who works intensively with women in IDP camps and mosques in Baghdad, accompanied IHAO for the distribution. During the event she visited every tent and spoke to the women and girls about their issues in the camp. It became quite apparent that children were traumatized after witnessing substantial violence – many of the children witnessed their parents killed by ISIS.
The tragedy of the stories of the children and families in Bzeibiz did not hinder the joy of the event. Along with humanitarian goods, soccer balls were given to the children, and we witnessed the reinvigoration of fun in an otherwise forsaken place. Not only did the children have a great time, but some of the IHAO staff got carried away playing a soccer match against the kids! When night began to fall, the team had to pack up (and forfeit their game) to hit the road back to Baghdad. When asked about the events of the day, the team said that they had so much fun with the kids that every minute in the heat was worth it. It is inspirational stories and experiences like these that drive the Soccer Salam team to continue reaching as many children with aid and fun as possible.
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