15th May 2018
When you live in a displacement camp, you’re assigned one tent for your whole family. Your bathrooms are at the end of the block—along with your kitchen and access to water. How do you prepare food for your child? How do you keep your child safe?
Kelly Nau, Samaritan’s Purse health program manager in Iraq, described this challenging situation and went on to explain that Iraq has some of the highest rates of malnutrition among children in the Middle East.
“In 2016 when the fighting in Mosul intensified, there were thousands of families that were displaced from their homes because of the violence and were relocated to these camps. Today in 2018, these families are still living here,” Nau said. “Many of them have tried to return home but have found that there’s not a home waiting for them when they get back. There’s no work or resources for them, so they’ve come back to the camps or have not been able to leave.”
Fatima* remembers the escalating situation in Mosul well.
“We were so afraid. We were starving. It was difficult to find food.”
She and her family fled for their lives—eventually reaching a collection point where they boarded a bus that took them to their new home, the camp. Soon after she was expecting her fourth child. Samaritan’s Purse health workers began visiting her tent to train her in how to care for her baby.
“I received counselling regarding breastfeeding and learned the benefits of colostrum. I learned not to give the newborn water for six months. In our culture, we give water and sugar to the baby on the first day.”
When her baby Asim* was three days old, some of our Samaritan’s Purse health workers—who are also displaced people—returned to check on them and deliver an infant care box. Inside the large box, Fatima found a bassinet, a blanket, nappies, and a washcloth.
“I’m so joyful to receive them,” Fatima said. “The team is so supportive.”
Fatima is one mother among many in the camp to benefit from an infant care kit from Samaritan’s Purse. In the past year and a half, more than 1,000 mothers have received these kits for their newborns.
Despite the prevalence of malnutrition in the country, young Asim is healthy and growing.
When asked how she would like mothers around the world to pray for her, Fatima said, “Pray that we’ll be able to get out of the camp.” They remain there because the food rations they receive help them survive.
Just a few months ago, little Rashid* was hungry, resorting to eating dirt and rocks. Samaritan’s Purse health workers at the camp where he was born screened him and discovered he had severe acute malnutrition. Enrolling him in our program, we equipped his mother Hiba* with peanut-based supplements to feed him and help him grow.
Now she reports, “His appetite is good. He’s sleeping, and he’s starting crawling. I was always thinking he was sick and thin. When I saw him improving, my mind finally relaxed.”
She is deeply grateful to Samaritan’s Purse for the assistance.
“I am so thankful that there is a program that treated my child and now he is healthy.”
Relieved on this front, Hiba wrestles on others. She wants to bring Rashid, now 1, and his 2-year-old sister back home to Mosul and struggles with the realities of life in the camp.
Without income in the camp, she notes, “It’s difficult when your child needs something and you can’t provide for them.” Like many mothers, she simply wants happiness for her children.
Since January 2017, Samaritan’s Purse has treated over 2,700 children for malnutrition in displacement camps across the Nineveh Plains.
Our trained, all-female team of health workers goes tent to tent throughout the camps providing monthly screening to all children under 5. When they encounter severe or moderate acute malnutrition, they enroll the child in the Samaritan’s Purse program for treatment and ongoing monitoring.
Considerable focus is given to a child’s first 1,000 days—from conception through two years old.
“It’s one of the most foundational time periods for the child,” Kelly said. “[What happens during that time] sets them up for success or failure in their whole life,”
Samaritan’s Purse also supports expecting mothers with iron and folic acid supplements as well as nutrition counselling for them and their babies. Our health workers train mothers in breastfeeding and foster mother-to-mother support groups which encourage women that they are not alone in this daunting role.
“God has already given mothers everything they need to take care of their kids,” Kelly said. “We just need to come alongside them and encourage them and build their confidence.”
*Names changed for security and privacy.