We cannot survive without flowers

 Emergency Response
 24th May 2017

The city was bustling as we arrived in Chamisku. Cars driving up and down and children everywhere. Boys playing football, small shops, cafés, and street vendors selling everything from toys and clothes to household items. Impressive mountains set the backdrop, while we are surrounded by fields of grass and trees.

One might think we arrived in a magical place but the reality is different. Chamisku hosts the biggest camp for internally displaces persons (IDPs), in which CARE works in northern Iraq. Countless tents are here, in which many families have spent the past three years. More than 26,700 people live in Chamisku, most of them are Yazidis. In 2014, they were brutally attacked, expelled and murdered. Some escaped by fleeing over the Sinjar Mountains.

 “We cannot survive here without flowers”, Photo: CARE/Emily Kinsky

Life in Chamisku differs from other camps. Most of the people here, particularly men, work. “Just recently a company called Zakho hired 100 of our residents,” Chamisku’s camp manager proudly tells us. However, there are still many female-headed families in which fathers or husbands are missing. They are often affected by extreme poverty and require more assistance to survive. Only very few women own small businesses. 

4,865 families equal 4,865 tents

The first thing we noticed when we went to see Amina’s (45) tent are the splendid yellow flowers and the scent of fresh mint in the air. The “garden” between her tents is well maintained and beautifully decorated. Amina is mother of nine children aged 17 to 30 and was forced to flee from Sinjar o escape death and persecution. “Our house still stands where it used to be but it was completely looted when we left,” she tells us. From time to time the family returns home for short visits. Longer stays are not possible. The situation is too unstable for Yazidis. “Life is good in the camp,” she says. “My husband earns a salary as a teacher, he teaches kids in the camp”. A few of her children go to school or even to college.

Back home, they had their land, a beautiful garden and a big house. “Without flowers we cannot survive,” she says. Her hope, which she shares with many other camp residents, is to one day leave the camp. But for now, and maybe longer, no alternative exists for the family. Still she says, “we only want to return home.”

CARE in Chamisku

CARE has been working in Chamisku since 2015. Together with its local partner organization Harikar, we have been focusing on water, sanitation and hygiene. This includes access to water, waste management and awareness raising activities on the importance of hygiene practices.

By Katharina Katzer, Katharina.katzer@care.at;

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