BALTIMORE, MD, August 21, 2014 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has committed an initial $1 million in private funding to help victims of the escalating violence in northern Iraq. With the help of our partners in Iraq, CRS is currently providing food, water and essential living supplies to families in desperate need of the essentials. Over the next six months, CRS hopes to more than double our initial $1 million commitment and help an additional 30,000 people with social support and trauma counseling, education for children and preparation for longer-term resettlement.
“The situation is horrific,” said Kris Ozar, CRS’ emergency response coordinator in Iraq. “People are completely traumatized after being forced to flee their homes under threat of death. Many have nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Some who tried to pack their belongings were stripped of everything—even the rings off their fingers—-at mandatory checkpoints,” he said.
With support from our Catholic Church partners in Iraq, CRS has provided immediate, life-saving assistance to almost 4,000 families forced to flee their homes by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Religious minorities including Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen and Shia Muslims have been singled out for attack. Many are living in empty houses, schools, clinics, church compounds and abandoned buildings, with living conditions deteriorating.
“Every day, I meet brave but frightened people who have no idea what the future holds. Recently I met a young mother with a three-week-old baby living in a school. Then, I met a man who took in 20 orphaned children from Mt. Sinjar. Another day, I met a former humanitarian aid worker from Caritas Iraq huddled with his family under the shade of a lone tree. This man, who used to help people, now needs help himself,” said Ozar.
Pope Francis launched an appeal for unity, calling for “security, peace and a future of reconciliation and justice, where all Iraqis, whatever their religion, could build their nation together, creating a model of coexistence.” For more information about how CRS is assisting persecuted minorities in Iraq, visit crs.org.
CRS staff are available for interviews.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. CRS eases suffering and provides assistance to people in need in 93 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. Our programs touch nearly 100 million lives. CRS has been helping people in need for more than 70 years. For more information, please visit crs.org or crsespanol.org and follow CRS on social media: Facebook, Twitter at @CatholicRelief and @CRSnews, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube.