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As the world debates over military intervention in Syria following suspected deadly attacks last week, ShelterBox has been in Iraqi Kurdistan responding to the influx of Syrian refugees into the country.
ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member Hunter Tanous (US) recounts the upsetting stories of Qadria and Tariq, displaced Syrians who the SRT met at Krwigorsk refugee camp near the capital Irbil.
‘We met Qadria as we walked though the camp. She was cutting watermelon in the entrance to her tent, offering us a piece as she sat shaded from the 50-degree heat. She is a woman who has lost everything, fleeing Damascus when her house was looted and husband killed. The smile on her face was a strong juxtaposition to the harrowing story we would soon hear.
‘Sign of a survivor’
‘There were six in her family, but only two daughters were with her in the camps. She lost her husband in the war and had to leave her two sons behind. She fled with her daughters by bus, making the journey to the border with Kurdistan. They saw bombs fall around them; not all of the buses arrived. She thanked God for the camp, for us, for the buses at the border that took her to this shelter.
‘Stacked around her were piles of blankets, more than needed for this heat. This is a sign of a survivor, a resourceful and strong woman who must plan for the winter, almost unimaginable in these temperatures. She is one of 15,000 in the camp today, with thousands more coming.
‘We then met Tariq, aged 46. He and his family did not have shelter; just a ripped blanket propped up by a stick and attached to the side of another family’s tent. Without this the intensely high heat would quickly take its toll. As his family shared one plate of rice and a piece of chicken for the five of them, Tariq spoke of how his wife and three children had been separated from him and his son while fleeing. He cried for seven days until just that morning, when he found his wife and three children in the camp. It was ‘like paradise’ when his family was reunited again.
‘Challenge of finding shelter’
‘Although Tariq’s joy at reuniting with his family was bursting across his face, he now had the even larger challenge of finding shelter to keep them out of the heat. He had tried to ask for a tent but as of yet had not received one. His daughters were too young and his son too sick to help. He spoke of his old age and his injured back making it difficult to manage the distances in the camp and the shoving at distribution points. Tariq’s family’s welfare depends only on shelter. ‘The only thing I need is a tent, just a tent,’ he said as we prepared to leave.
‘Our partners from the Barzani Charity Foundation (BCF) took his name and said they would make sure he received a tent as soon as they were available. Tariq was not the only one without a tent we saw that day.’
Shelter, comfort and a future
Following needs assessments, winterised tents are en route to Irbil to be distributed to people in desperate need, like Tariq who has nothing except his family and clothes on their backs. Thank you for your support that is bringing shelter, comfort and a future to thousands affected by the Syria conflict.