Displaced Iraqis face new threat as winter approaches

Trapped in their homes and villages for many weeks, thousands of Yazidi civilians fled the area taking refuge in Duhok Governorate after militant groups killed many of them. The Kurdistan region is home to hundreds of thousands of displaced families fleeing many parts of Iraq. Conflict and political instability have forced 1.2 million people from their homes. Cars, packed with children, have been fleeing into the Kurdish region, where hundreds of thousands of people are already sheltering. Sabri Gheeru is one of them. 

DUHOK, IRAQ - Sabri Gheeru sits in an unfinished building in Zakho city. She is one of hundreds of Yazidis from Shingal who call this concrete structure home.
“The militant groups followed us into the Sinjar Mountains,” she says. “My husband and some of our men fought them. But he was killed.” Sabri strokes her daughter’s hair, and continues.
“We stayed for eight days, thinking about how to save ourselves. Whenever my children cried, I told them, I'll bring you food. I tried to make them forget it, and sleep.” Sabri has four daughters: the youngest, cradled in her lap, is one year old. She cries softly, and Sabri breast-feeds her.
Helped by relatives, Sabri and her daughters walked for two days to escape. They survived extreme heat exposure on the mountain. Now, Sabri's enemy is winter.

“I fear my tribe will die because of the cold,” she says. This mountainous province has an unkind climate. Whilst August temperatures exceed 43ºC, winter in Duhok brings rain, wind and snow. The lowest recorded temperature for December is -12ºC.

The Yazidi community here share kerosene stoves to cook lentils, rice, pasta, and other WFP commodities, vital sources of energy as temperatures plummet. Innovative families insulate makeshift shelters with WFP sacks, and use WFP boxes to light fires outside.

Sabri knows this building is unsuitable for the harsh winter. The patchwork plastic sheets won't prevent creeping frost, or protect her children from biting winds whipping through the open building. Where solid walls should be, old men gaze at bare mountains, which will soon be white with snow. At least 15 percent of the displaced people in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq live in structures without windows or doors.

Although this community takes care of each other, some burdens Sabri must bear alone. “My daughters ask where their father is,” she sighs. “I tell them he'll come back soon.” The girls snuggle up to her. They are bare-foot.  
WFP is providing food assistance to Sabri among more than one million displaced people across Iraq since the upsurge in violence in mid-June. This is in spite of a very challenging security situation.