Q&A: Winter in Iraq

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Photo: Iraqi children Oulah, 5, and Zareh, 7, play cat's cradle with a piece of twine. While children often claim that their greatest needs are toys, their parents' priority is preparing for the fast-approaching winter in which temperatures will drop below freezing, and many are protected only by tarpaulins. (©2014 Mark Kate MacIsaac/World Vision)

 

Chris Palusky, a vice president here at World Vision, recently traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan to meet displaced families, aid workers, government officials, and church leaders.

Today, Chris answers a few questions about his visit and provides an update on the needs of families far from home, and World Vision’s response to this crisis in northern Iraq.

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During his trip, an Iraqi father named Hazem told Chris of his family’s ordeal. “We had a choice to either flee or be killed,” the father of four said. From Mosul, his family walked for five days until they found a place to stay where they would be safe from violence. Now they’re in Dohuk, facing another danger: a cold, wet winter.

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    Rebuilding after a monster typhoon: One year later

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    What does it take to survive a disaster? What does it take to thrive and build back better?

    Matthew Paul Turner is with the World Vision bloggers in the Philippines this week. He describes how the people of Tacloban are no longer defined by the monster of Typhoon Haiyan.

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    The Filipino people are survivors.

    That’s what they want you to remember: that they are surviving the hell that Typhoon Haiyan brought to their shores one year ago.

    Haiyan’s fury—most specifically, its unprecedented storm surge—killed more than 6,400 people, displaced 4.1 million, and damaged or destroyed more than 11 million homes. One humanitarian worker described Haiyan’s aftermath “to look like a bomb had gone off.”

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      New homes recreate shattered lives

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      After Typhoon Haiyan, survivors were living in tents and makeshift shelter; some still do today.

      World Vision is building new homes for the most vulnerable families, and providing building supplies and training workshops for thousands more!

      Our bloggers are in the Philippines this week, marking the year anniversary of the storm. See the recovery through their eyes ...

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      At everyone’s most basic level, we all want somewhere to lay our head every night. Filipinos living in the path of last year’s Typhoon Haiyan’s early morning storm surge and over 300km/hour winds lost everything within a 30-minute span, including their homes, and many, sadly, lost loved ones.

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        Witnessing recovery in Tacloban

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        In our work to fight against the root causes of poverty, it often takes a whole community to come to the aid of another community in need. That’s what you made happen a year ago for communities like Tacloban in the Philippines that were devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.

        Our World Vision Bloggers are in the Philippines this week marking the one-year anniversary of the storm and witnessing first-hand the remarkable progress that’s been made this past year and what’s still to come. Follow their trip right here!

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        A year ago today, I remember watching the radar maps of the Western Pacific and the fat, white, somewhat bagel-looking cloud that blotted out whole seas and countries – trying to picture what was about to happen for people in the Philippines.

        I didn’t, fully.

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          Missed harvest today, famine tomorrow

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          Today is World Food Day, a day dedicated to coming together in a global movement to end hunger.

          One of the hungriest places in the world right now is South Sudan, where conflict has displaced 1.4 million people and created a dire food shortage for nearly 4 million.

          Food aid provided by World Vision and other relief organizations has held off an official famine, but there is still a big question mark looming over 2015.

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          Right now, “every night more people than the population of the city of Los Angeles go to sleep hungry,” according to Perry Mansfield, program director for World Vision in South Sudan. The fact that South Sudan has not reached the official famine status that had been expected by this fall, though a positive sign, does not mean that the food crisis is over or that famine won’t still come.

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            Why we’re going into Iraq

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            1.8 million children, mothers, and fathers have been internally displaced because of the conflict in Iraq. World Vision has recently begun relief operations to help them.

            "We are going into Iraq," writes Rich Stearns, president of World Vision U. S. "Difficult, challenging, and risky as it might be."

            Why? Read more to find out.

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            This month, World Vision is starting relief operations in northern Iraq. It will be the second country this year in which we have restarted or begun new operations following a crisis.

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              Opening our hearts to the little children

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              Reflecting on the humanitarian crisis of vulnerable children along the U. S. border, Rich Stearns – president of World Vision U.S. – writes that, following Jesus, "the best solutions come from a compassionate heart."

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              “Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” –Matthew 19:13-14 (NIV)

              When I read the Gospels, I’m often quick to wonder how the disciples so often got things wrong. Like the time that little children were brought to Jesus for him to lay his hands on them. The disciples heartlessly drove the children away.

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                Children suffer most in South Sudan

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                As conflict ravages South Sudan, the nation’s children are bearing the brunt of the crisis: separated from their families, hungry and malnourished, not in school, and at risk of abuse and exploitation.

                Michael Arunga, World Vision emergency communications advisor for Africa, looks back at the brief history of South Sudan and reflects on how this new nation came to its current situation.

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                The ghosts that struck Kenya after the 2007 elections are back. This time, they’ve swarmed the world’s newest nation of South Sudan. Worst hit are children. Reports indicate that more than half of the 1.1 million people displaced in-country, and another 386,800 who fled as refugees, are children!

                The prognosis of South Sudan is a replica of what transpired in Kenya: killings, sexual violations, burned houses, plundering, refugee camps, and child-led households.

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                  World Vision brings children together

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                  For World Refugee Day today, we're highlighting our Child-Friendly Spaces, which are helping Syrian refugee children play and smile again after the trauma they've been through.

                  Read about a small building tucked into a back street in downtown Irbid, Jordan, where World Vision is helping to bridge the gap between Syrian refugee children and vulnerable kids in Jordan.

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                  It’s a sunny Monday morning in the northern Jordanian city of Irbid, located just 15 kilometers from the Syrian border. At a community center in the downtown core, a group of children are drawing maps that feature scenes of their neighborhood, while in another room, younger children delight in playing with toys and putting magnetic letters up onto a small blackboard under the watchful eye of a social worker.

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                    The red leather shoes

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                    As fighting continues in South Sudan, the debris of people in flight litters the ground: suitcases, a television…a child's red leather shoes.

                    When families flee, children can become separated, putting them at risk of exploitation and abuse.

                    Read this startling testimony about what's happening and how World Vision is working to help.

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                    I only catch a glimpse of them as we hurtle along the dusty road. Armed men are everywhere. Stopping for a better look is too dangerous.

                    They are red leather shoes with little straps and tiny silver buckles, slightly scuffed at the toes. Judging by the size, they belonged to a child no older than 4 or 5. Surreally, they sit neatly side by side, almost as if put away on an imaginary shelf.

                    A little further along, a single adult trainer lies sideways in a ditch. 

                    Just past that, I spot two gray plastic suitcases. They are open but empty, the contents stolen.

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