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Iraq: Leggings and a Pink T-shirt for the summer

"We travelled on foot for seven days before we got to the camp and we were safe."

We are in the Bersevi II camp for internally displaced people, near to the border town of Zakho in the Dohuk region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Amongst the children of the camp, there is a great feeling of excitement in the air today. Today, they are getting summer clothes from Malteser International. The school age children are called in class groups, the smaller ones are invited up later with their parents.

Zina, ten years old, is near to the front of her class as they wait in line for their new clothing. When we ask her to speak to us a little about herself, she shyly agrees – sitting down on a large bag of clothes to speak to our Emergency Aid Coordinator Dr. Niklas Kumlien. Our driver, Salah, translates the questions into Kurdish.

“I have five siblings,” Zina tells us, “one older, the others younger than me. I have lived here in the camp with them and my parents for months.” Zina tells us that her family ran from their village when the news of the ISIS advance spread. “We travelled on foot for seven days before we got to the camp and we were safe. I’m alright here, but I miss my friends, and home,” she said.

Malteser International has been working for the medical care of the displaced people in Bersevi II since the end of 2014. More than 100,000 internally displaced people – refugees in their own country – have found a safe place to live here. Most of them have been forced to flee their homes because of their membership of the persecuted Yazidi religious minority. Zina and her family are also Yazidis.

When we asked her what sort of clothes she would like the most, she answered, “a pretty skirt!” Sadly, the only clothes available are T-shirts, with leggings for the girls, and shorts for the boys. Our Kurdish staff received a list of all of the children under 14 in the camp from the Camp Manager: now the children can choose the color and style that they like. In a camp with a total of almost 4,000 children, however, the choice is somewhat limited.

Zina chooses a pair of colorful patterned leggings and a pink t-shirt for herself, and walks away beaming with joy in her new summer clothes.

Text and photos: Dr. Susanne Rastin/Malteser International (July 2015)

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