When violence erupted in Mosul in early October, militants forced more than 11,000 of the city’s Christians to flee. Nawar, an Iraqi refugee now living in Lebanon, remembers how the intimidation and threats began weeks before. “Masked gunmen posted threatening letters around the city,” he said. “After the first Christian was killed, we realized how serious they were.” Nawar and his family immediately left Mosul, with only the clothes on their backs and a few valuables. Soldiers at Iraqi checkpoints did not allow families to take anything more with them, assuring the newly displaced that the violence and intolerance in Mosul will soon pass.
In Lebanon, International Medical Corps staff first noted the influx of Christian refugees in late September, as families already assisted by our six Mobile Medical Units reported that relatives from Mosul were seeking refuge in Lebanon. Poor Christian neighborhoods in northeast Beirut have become a safe haven for the newly arrived Iraqi refugees. Randa, an Iraqi interviewed by International Medical Corps moments after she arrived in Lebanon with her young daughter, described how Christians from Iraq feel safe in Lebanon, where religious tolerance is high relative to other Arab countries and where Christians can freely and openly practice their faith.
Unfortunately, Iraqi refugees are not permitted to work in Lebanon and the close to 40 newly arrived families whom International Medical Corps is assisting say they used the majority of their savings to leave Mosul. Nawar and his family of five, including two children under two, are living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heating and sporadic electricity. He and his mother both have health problems and the family does not have enough nutrient-rich food for his growing young sons, Edward and Noor.
International Medical Corps immediately mobilized to assist Nawar’s family as well as all the other families affected by the surge of violence in Mosul. The mobile units are distributing complementary food supplements to families with young children, clothing, and hygiene kits, and are providing medical assistance in the form of complete physical check-ups for the entire family, referrals to International Medical Corps-supported clinics, and vaccination services. At eight International Medical Corps-supported primary health care clinics, with funding from the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Iraqi refugees receive free medication, laboratory tests and medical consultations for a low symbolic fee. Refugees in need of secondary health care services are referred by International Medical Corps to appropriate health providers. We also provide a wide range of mental health and psychosocial services to refugees, including individual counseling, vocational training opportunities, peer support groups, and places where children can play.
But in addition to the basic services provided to Iraqi refugees who have just arrived and to those who have been in Lebanon for years, International Medical Corps also serves as a voice for the families recently displaced from Mosul, alerting partner NGOs and the UN refugee agency to their plight. In doing so, says Medical Director Dr. Haider Sahib, International Medical Corps hopes to “help these people, not only through our available resources, but also through the resources of local NGOs, churches, UNHCR, and its partners in order to provide these vulnerable refugees with comprehensive assistance.”