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Woman with children in front of a leaky tent in Bardarash

Surviving the winter in a leaky tent

Rain, snow, cold. It is winter in Northern Iraq. Also in the refugee camps, that are becoming increasingly full since the Turkish attacks. “Imagine living in a leaky tent with your baby,” says ZOA's director in Iraq, John Panga. "I don't understand how the refugees can survive here."

emergency aid packages in iraq

The need grows, but the support disappears

While most aid organizations have left, the need among refugees in Northern Iraq is only increasing. Every day more people from North-East Syria seek refuge in Northern Iraq, fearing Turkey’s attacks. In camp Bardarash, they move into tents that have been there for more than five years and leak on all sides. ZOA is there, with emergency aid packages.

“The need is enormous,” says director John Panga of ZOA in Iraq. He calls the situation in the Bardarash refugee camp in northern Iraq "unimaginably challenging". The tents there date from around 2017, when the camp was full of refugees from Syria and other parts of Iraq during the occupation by Isis. At that time, a lot of emergency aid was provided by various organizations.

“Since Isis left, many people have gone back to their homes,” says John. "But a large group of people are still in camps because they simply don't have a home to go back to."

In recent months, a new stream of refugees has arrived from North-East Syria. People seek refuge in Northern Iraq, fearing Turkey’s attacks. Bardarash is getting fuller and fuller. But the camp is not prepared for the new influx.

Leaking tent in Bardarash, Iraq

Emergency aid packages

“The tents keep leaking,” says John. “The power lines have become old and there is no drainage. There's nothing in the camp. What you often see is people tapping electricity, causing a fire.”

The need is great, while most aid organizations have now left the country. “The international community mainly believes that Iraq should invest its oil revenues in the reconstruction of the country,” says John. “And organizations that were still there are now working in Ukraine and deploy their staff there.”

ZOA's presence in the camp is therefore very important to the people, he says. ZOA distributes emergency aid packages, which can be used for the first 7 to 10 days after arrival in the camp. It contains basic necessities, such as tarpaulins, non-perishable food, kitchen utensils, blankets and hygiene items. “And we provide each tent with a heater with fuel,” says John.

Boy in Bardarash in Iraq


It is very difficult to get enough funds for this emergency aid, he says. “Ukraine sucks up all the money. We had to adjust our budget.” The ZOA team hopes to be able to hand out arrival packages worth 100,000 euros this winter. “But we would prefer to give away double that amount.”