In April and May 2016 I had the privilege of working with MSF (Medecines sans Frontieres) in the Kurdish north of Iraq. MSF, known for their work in conflict zones and areas of critical need, has had a presence in Iraq since 2006. Throughout the country, MSF deploys mobile clinics in order to deliver medical care to those unable to reach health facilities due to movement restrictions and security risks. Their focus includes, but is not limited to, chronic disease, sexual and reproductive health and psycho-social support for those living in areas that have for too long gone without.
Hawre, a tailor, stands outside of his shop in the village of Zummar, Iraqi Kurdistan.
Akam, Rojan, Aka sit outside of an abandoned shopping the village of Zummar, Iraqi Kuridstan.
In early August 2014, the Islamic State — locally referred to as Daesh — attacked the village of Zummar. The resistance held for three days, but Zummar was ultimately captured and held by the Islamic State until October of 2014.
In late October, the Kurdish Peshmerga, backed by US airstrikes successfully recaptured the village of Zummar. Today the town is a mix of abandoned buildings, half-stocked shops and men, women and children doing the best that they can to survive as the future of their country largely waits to be determined.
A father and his children wait to be seen at a MSF mobile clinic in the village of Hutheima, Iraqi Kurdistan.
The waiting room inside of a MSF mobile clinic is filled to capacity in the village of Hutheima, Iraqi Kurdistan.
Hutheima is a village in the Tal Afar district of Iraqi Kurdistan, located just 3 km from the Ninewa frontline. In April 2016 the MSF team traveled to the clinic for the first time expanding their regional reach in addressing critical need(s), making assessments, meeting with the local authorities and establishing a plan for continuation of care. 600 families once lived in Hutheima, but now only 170 families call this village home. 430 families fled when Daesh took over in August 2014 and never returned — some chose to stay away while others were displaced with no ability (financial, health, security to name a few) to return.
Those that returned to Hutheima did so in early 2015. during that time most people moved to areas behind the frontline in Daesh controlled areas while still others settled in the baadre camp. The local mukhtar (head of village) shared that in January of 2015 some people started to sneak away and return to Hutheima. others stayed behind. He and his family chose to walk the 6+ hours back to their home. Unfortunately, his story of fleeing home, displacement and hardship are not unique. Iraq is experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in decades. An increase in violence, beginning in 2014, has resulted in the displacement of over three million people. These individuals often have very little access to healthcare services, and in some war-torn areas infrastructure and medical facilities have been destroyed leaving the local population with no access to medical care.
Daily life, Iraqi Kurdistan
Daily life in Iraqi Kurdistan
Daily Life in Iraqi Kurdistan
Elektricity, Iraqi Kurdistan
Margin, age 12, and Gazie, age 2 sit inside of their temporary home in the village of Abu Wajnam.
These children are two of over 15 individuals living in a rented house not far from a clinic where MSF is providing services. The families staying in the house were all displaced in 2014 when Mosul was taken over by Daesh -- they have been without a permanent home since. One of the men, the father of these boys and the primary breadwinner, was executed by Daesh making an already difficult situation even harder for those left behind.
Peshmerga checkpoint, Iraqi Kurdistan.
Farrah, age 5, stands outside of an MSF mobile clinic in the village of Hutheima, Iraqi Kurdistan.
Outside the village of Hutheima, Iraqi Kurdistan
The sun sets on another day outside of Dohuk, Kurdistan