This week, emergency relief organisation Medair is distributing essential health and hygiene items to more than 7,000 people in Wana, northern Iraq.
More than 1,400 families have returned to Wana since it was liberated from militants in February, and people are in urgent need of health and hygiene support.
Many arrived home to find their houses pillaged or destroyed, electricity access severed, and livelihoods wrecked. Medicines and equipment had also been looted and tampered with in the town’s health clinic.
Medair will distribute hygiene kits, including soap, shampoo, and feminine products, as well as run a health screening programme to address the outbreak of scabies in the town. Medair is also supporting the understaffed and under-resourced local clinic by providing health services, seeing approximately 90 patients a day from Wana and the surrounding villages.
“Wana is a tough place to live. Families are returning to looted homes in the best of cases, and homes that are completely destroyed in the worst,” said Chappy Rago, Medair’s Shelter Manager. “On top of this, humanitarian relief can be held back by the risks of going to areas so close to the front lines, which shift with the constantly fluctuating boundaries of the conflict. These are places that are hard to reach with lots of people in need.”
In August 2014, militants swept through Wana, forcing thousands to flee for safety, some of them becoming trapped in nearby Mosul. Now that Wana has been reclaimed, cleared of explosives, and the front lines are holding, families are beginning to return.
A local farmer told Medair he had escaped Mosul and recently returned to Wana after hearing it had been liberated.
“Mosul was occupied by ISIS when we fled Wana last year, but the whole area around us was closed off by fighting, so Mosul was the only place we could get to,” he said. “It felt like we were suffocating there. When we learned that our area had been liberated, we started making plans to come back. When I first returned to Wana, I saw that some of the houses had been blown up. There was death everywhere. Now it’s starting to feel more secure here ̶ liberated.”