A woman displaced by the crisis in Anbar: seeking safety, protection and assistance

Neda receiving humanitarian aid from UNHCR in western Mansour, Baghdad Neda receiving humanitarian aid from UNHCR in western Mansour, Baghdad UNHCR

Neda is showing a picture of her disabled younger sister and her eyes are filling with tears. Neda takes full care of her two younger sisters, including disabled Ritaje and Yasmin, who was abandoned by her husband, as well as two nephews. The 39-year-old Neda has never been married -- she said she devoted her life to her family.


The family left Fallujah several months ago when their rented house was destroyed by a mortar. For some time they found  refuge in a mosque, along with other families displaced by fierce fighting between the armed groups and the Iraqi army.  

But staying in the area, which turned into a battle ground with explosions, flying mortars and indiscriminate shelling, was no longer an option for the family. Neda’s sister was shot in her leg and that was the last drop which forced the family to leave the city for Baghdad, in search for safety and protection. 

Neither detonated bridges nor closed roads nor numerous checkpoints along the way prevented Neda and her family from finding their way to Baghdad and settling down in one of the many informal settlements for internally displaced people (IDPs). Baghdad is home to more than 200,000 people displaced by the sectarian violence of 2006-2008, who so far have not been able to integrate or return home. The settlement, where Neda stays with her family, chronically suffers from lack of clean water, sanitation and other essential services. 

Neda’s 13-year-old nephew sells toys and other small items on the streets of Baghdad, and this is the only source of income of the family, who would otherwise rely on charity from mosques and other IDP neighbours for help. Neda averts her eyes and talks about harassment and intimidation which she experiences as a female head of a household struggling for survival. “People know that there is no man in our family to protect us and I have nobody to ask for help”, she said.

Neda’s family was among hundred others who came to receive humanitarian aid from UNHCR in western Mansour district of Baghdad last week. They fled their homes without personal belongings, hence lacking basic items. In the recent round of humanitarian aid, funded by the Republic of Turkey, UNHCR has been distributing core relief item (CRI) kits to 1,800 families (some 12,000 people) who fled Fallujah and Ramadi because of the on-going armed conflict. Each CRI kit contains six quilts, six mattresses, a cooking stove, one kitchen set, plastic sheets, one water jerry can, one hygiene kit and one kerosene jerry can. 

The Ambassador of Turkey, Mr. Faruk Kaymakci, who observed the distribution of humanitarian aid in western Mansour, talked to IDPs and pointed out that Turkey and Iraq are sister-countries and his country will always stand by Iraqis, both in good and bad times.          

The four-month-long crisis in Anbar has displaced almost 73,000 families or 440,000 persons. UNHCR has provided some 6,500 CRI kits as well as cash assistance and protection counseling to vulnerable IDPs. With no solution in sight to the crisis, the humanitarian community, led by the UN, in close coordination with the Government of Iraq, is striving to provide assistance to needy IDPs, despite challenging security conditions and seriously constrained access to IDP locations, especially in Anbar. 

By Natalia Prokopchuk, UNHCR Baghdad, Iraq


Additional Info

  • Agency: UNHCR

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