Supporting Vulnerable Families in Sinjar By Raber Y. Aziz & Sarah Ali

At a distance, Sinjar looks like a ghost town with no signs of life, still lying in ruins despite the return of some residents. More than four years since ISIL attacked the town, over 2,300 families still remain in displacement on Mount Sinjar, with many more living in camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

The old town of Sinjar was severely affected by the conflict with most neighborhoods completely flattened, or heavily destroyed, making it uninhabitable. Raber Aziz/IOM Iraq, January 2019.

Returns to Sinjar, home to primarily members of the Yazidi minority group, have been slow due to destruction of houses, lack of public services and livelihood opportunities, amongst other concerns. Displaced families and returnees do not have the chance to provide their families with basic needs such as food, household items and medical care.

“We used to farm before ISIL attacked our village and pushed us onto the mountain, where we don’t have many livelihood opportunities to cover our needs. My husband goes to Duhok as a daily paid worker to support the family, but what he earns is not enough,” said Basima Dakhil, from Til Uzer village, Qahtaniyah district, currently living on Mount Sinjar.

Basima is one of 225 women and men who take part in IOM's cash for work project in Sinjar. Sarah Ali/IOM Iraq, February 2019.

Basima and 225 other women and men are participating in an IOM cash-for-work project funded by Canada, U. S. State Department’s Bureau of Populations, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and USAID, in which inhabitants from Sinjar district, both on the mountain and Sinjar old town, carry out tasks such as cleaning schools, streets and municipal buildings, rehabilitating hospitals and upgrading tents, and implementing flood mitigation measures, in return for cash. The project helps the workers, and benefits the community.

Most of the tents in which the displaced families on Mount Sinjar live, need upgrading after more than four years of wear and tear in different weather conditions. Sarah Ali/IOM Iraq, February 2019.
There is no infrastructure on Mount Sinjar; the participants of the cash for work project improve the dirt roads by covering them with stones to make them usable during the rainy season. Sarah Ali/IOM Iraq, February 2019.

“Participating in this cash-for-work project enables me to support my family. With the money I earn here, I buy milk for my child, medicine and other items for the household,” said Basima.

IOM selects the most vulnerable people for this cash-for-work project through a vulnerability assessment. Local community leaders first provide a list of names to IOM; IOM then interviews the families to determine their vulnerability based on criteria such as household structure (i.e. female-headed household), economic situation, whether members of family have disabilities, whether children go to school, etc.

More than 2,300 families still live in displacement on Mount Sinjar, scattered across this valley. Raber Aziz/IOM Iraq, November 2018.

“I have seven children; my three-year-old daughter needs an operation. She has undergone three operations so far. I had some sheep but sold them to pay for her treatment. Now I am saving the money I earn through this cash-for-work project to pay for her fourth operation,” said Barkat Khudur Micho who was displaced from Qahtaniyah to Khanke town in Duhok, when ISIL attacked their village in 2014. They later returned to Mount Sinjar to be closer to home.

Barkat Khudur Micho. Sarah Ali/IOM Iraq, February 2019.

“Being away from home was very difficult for us, so we returned to live on Mount Sinjar; although we live in harsh conditions, we feel more comfortable here because it is our land and we are closer to home,” says Barkat.

Whether people return to Sinjar or stay in displacement, one thing is obvious: they need support. This support can be offered through the rehabilitation of houses and public infrastructure, provision of education and health services, or support to revive livelihoods so these families can earn money to support themselves.

Created By
Raber Aziz