As fighting intensifies in Iraq, displaced people are fleeing further north into Kurdistan. Handicap International emergency teams are working to identify and follow up with the injured and people with disabilities. “In the last few days, an estimated 200,000 people—mostly women, children, and the elderly—have fled to Dohuk Governorate or to other disputed border areas,” says Benedetta Di Cintio, Head of Mission for Handicap International in Iraq. “Most of these people left with pretty much nothing and are in urgent need of life-saving assistance.”
At the request of local authorities, Handicap International is providing assistive devices and mobility aids to an estimated 35,000 people displaced within the Dohuk area. “Due to the brutality of the conflict in Iraq, we expect to find many injured people among the displaced population and they will need rapid support to avoid developing permanent disabilities,” says Di Cintio. Handicap International is currently following 413 people requiring special assistance but that number is likely to double in the coming weeks.
However, keeping track of new arrivals with disabilities and injuries is proving difficult as the fighting continues to push the population further north. “Garmawa camp in Dohuk Governorate is currently being relocated as a consequence of new armed clashes,” says Di Cintio. “In Erbil Governorate, both the local population and displaced people from Southern Iraq are moving north. Fear has driven 80% of the population of Khazir transit camp in Erbil Governorate to leave. These additional displacements represent a major challenge for us as we try to follow up with our beneficiaries.”