Since January 2014, 3.3 million Iraqis have been displaced as a result of widening conflict in the country. The humanitarian response in camps within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has been strong — however as military operations continue in the north of the country, new waves of displacement are exacerbating an already inadequate and uneven response.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been running mobile clinics in Dibaga camp for over a year, providing primary healthcare with a special focus on mother and child health, chronic disease and mental health. Below are testimonies from people in the Dibaga camp.
Sheikh Abdul Kader: 'They beg us to liberate them'
“I am the sheikh, the head of a community of 650 families of the Al Sabawi tribe,” says Sheikh Adbul Kader. “We always had very close relations with the Kurds so when our village was attacked by ISIS in June 2014, most of us took refuge in Kurdistan. Since fighting resumed in March in Makhmour district, several thousand more people of my tribe have been arriving and we are expecting many more. I worry about them because the security procedures are slow and a family cannot settle properly if their papers are not ready”.
They say they live locked up in fear
“Those who fled to Mosul after ISIS took over in June 2014, are mostly back in our village. They call at night to give news; cell phones are banned so they have to be very cautious. The line is terrible. They beg us to liberate them. They say they live locked up in fear of being taken by ISIS, it’s like jail. ISIS is increasingly threatening: as the front moves forward they take their revenge on people, men, women and children. I know one man who managed to escape: ISIS got hold of his wife and child and killed them.”
Mariam: 'We walked all day to reach safety'
Mariam, 45, is waiting to see a doctor at an MSF clinic in Dibaga. “I’ve had a pain in my neck since fighting started my village” she says. “It was so scary, bombs were landing everywhere and we all ran away. We walked all day to reach safety. I got dust in my eye since then. Please don’t take pictures of me, I still have a sister in Mosul who might get into trouble. Since I arrived here three weeks ago things are better. I’ve been given a house in the camp and some donations, I can’t complain.”
'I am sure it was a gas attack'
“Go ahead, take a picture of me I don’t really care about the consequences, I want the whole world to know what is going on. I am from Kabaruk, a village close to Makhmour. On May 7, a rocket landed not far from my house and suddenly there was a bad smell that was swept across the village by the strong wind. We all ran to the rocket and covered it with sand as best we could. Now my throat is soar and I have shortness of breath, my nose is hurting. I am sure it was a gas attack”.
Ali: 'A bomb landed in the village'
“I use to be a mechanic," says Ali, "but when ISIS arrived all businesses stopped, people had no money. We survived on our cattle and sheep but there was no wood to make a fire and the water we drank was salty. Only ISIS fighters had access to sweet water. The kids kept falling ill because of that. We also lived through a gas attack, now we have problems breathing. A bomb landed in the village and people started coughing and sneezing. I even took a shower and some syrup but nothing helped.”
"Most people are hoping that the whole area will be liberated and that they will be allowed to return to their homes soon. We fled 10 days ago," says Ali. "We still have some relatives back in Hawijia and we worry about them. We will stay here as long as it takes, our village has now been freed but we need to wait for the whole area to be cleared before we can go back and hopefully that will happen soon. In the meantime I will have to find work, any kind of work”.
'I am not well'
Fatma was born a month ago in Debes hospital, a medical structure some 45 minutes’ drive away from Dibaga camp. Her parents and six siblings have been living in Dibaga camp since the camp was established a year ago. “It was a difficult delivery," says her mother, "it took two days and a midwife helped me give birth. I came to the clinic today because the baby’s belly button has a problem. I am not well myself, I feel sick and I keep bleeding.”