Sovereign Military Hospitaller
Order of St John of Jerusalem of
Rhodes and of Malta


Iraq: More than three million people forced from their homes by conflict


The Worldwide Relief Agency of the Order of Malta, Malteser International: “We have to keep our aid mobile”

In the year or so since the mass exodus of Iraqis from Mosul and the Sinjar Mountains, more than three million people in Iraq have fled from the so-called ‘Islamic State’ terror group. The United Nations estimate that a further 1.7 million will be added to this number before the end of the year. Malteser International, the Worldwide Relief Agency of the Order of Malta, is therefore planning to expand its mobile medical aid in the country. “We are keeping our aid measures mobile to be able to react quickly and effectively to new population displacements, and bring people who are suffering the help that they need,” said Malteser International’s Emergency Relief Manager Nicole Müller shortly after her return from northern Iraq. Malteser International currently provides medical care for refugees and displaced people in and around Erbil with a mobile medical team and at fixed clinics in two of the region’s camps for displaced people. The aid organisation now wishes to expend its efforts by establishing mobile clinics in more southerly regions in order to deal with the rising number of displaced people.

“Only around 10% of all refugees live in camps at the moment. The majority live with family members, in hotels, private houses or shelters in open spaces,” says Müller. “With mobile medical teams we can reach these people outside of the camps, who would otherwise have no access to medical care.” The Malteser International teams in Iraq are staffed entirely by displaced Iraqis.

At the same time, the humanitarian need in the refugee camps is great, and the number of people living in them is set to grow further. “In the two camps where we provide medical care, there are at the moment a total of 25,000 displaced people, 90% of whom are Yazidis who fled from the Sinjar mountains. Most of them cannot and do not want to go back to their home villages because everything there has been destroyed,” said Müller. “On top of everything, there are more displaced people arriving every day from the contested areas, and many of the people who have been living in hotels or motels until now will soon be seeking shelter in the camps, as their resources gradually become exhausted because they cannot find any work.”

Many of Iraq’s displaced people are currently suffering from diarrheal infections as well as skin conditions such as scabies due to a heat wave in the country, which has brought temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius. “The water supply for the refugees poses a great problem,” according to Müller – which is why outside of Erbil, Malteser International is providing around 800 families with clean drinking water in cooperation with the Danish Refugee Council.

Malteser International has been working in northern Iraq since August 2014, in cooperation with its local partners has provided medical treatment to around 45,000 sick, wounded and displaced people, as well as distributed emergency aid and hygiene kits with essential aid supplies to almost 10,000 people.

Photo: Carmen Wolf