A vegetable crate for a cradle

Caption: Kamla Edno and her five-day-old baby, Shahla Edno, at the Berseve 1 camp near the town of Zakho in northern Iraq in December 2014. The baby lies in a plastic crate used to store vegetables. Photo: LWF/ S. Cox
Caption: Kamla Edno and her five-day-old baby, Shahla Edno, at the Berseve 1 camp near the town of Zakho in northern Iraq in December 2014. The baby lies in a plastic crate used to store vegetables. Photo: LWF/ S. Cox

A child begins life living in a tent

DOHUK, Iraq/ GENEVA, 19 June 2015 (LWI) – Shahla Edno started her life in a plastic crate. Born in December 2014 at the Berseve 1 camp near the city of Zakho in Northern Iraq, her mother Kamla had neither a proper baby bed nor any of the other things newborns are usually showered with: cuddly toys, soft blankets, a stroller, diapers and baby clothes. The Edno family is made up of what are called internally displaced people (IDP) in northern Iraq.

Terror and conflict have forced them to leave their homes and become refugees in their own country. Forced to run from ISIS on foot when four months pregnant, Kamla Edno and her family of nine climbed the Sinjar mountains, where they took shelter for seven days before walking to the Syrian border, a two day ordeal.

The leg of a doll

They were later taken to Zakho town by car. For months, they lived in the skeleton of an incomplete building before moving to Berseve 1 IDP camp, a month before Kamla gave birth. Her baby now lies in a plastic crate designed to store vegetables.

Zakho is one of the places where The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is assisting with water supply. On the outskirts of the camp, two boreholes installed by the LWF provide water to communal taps serving the 12,000 residents of camp . The borehole also feeds the toilet, shower and food preparation blocks, allowing the residents at least some dignity in their circumstances. The fresh, clean water ensures survival – but not much else, for a family which has left everything behind.

Shahla is the youngest of eight siblings. Kamla’s eldest child is 14 years old. The children play at her feet as she speaks. Toys are whatever they can find to play with - for one of them it is only the leg of a doll. Her husband is often away looking for work. It is hard to have enough food for the entire family.

Fear for friends and relatives

It takes a lot of effort for Kamla to smile. ”We are really humiliated,” she says. Life in the camp is difficult. Kamla Edno finds the site crowded. Moisture seeps up through the ground and the family  has to keep the heater running at night to prevent condensation forming on the walls of the tent. On warm days, the heat is trapped in the tent. At night, the temperature plummets. “ We preferred to live in the unfinished buildings, but the authorities wanted us to move to the camp,” Kamla says. 

Her sister Mayasa Edno wishes she was back in secondary school but there is no school for miles. She misses her friends and relatives, fearing for the lives of some. They know friends in Sinjar have been kidnapped but have no idea if they are still alive.

“This is not the life we chose,” Kamla Edno says. “What kind of future do we expect?”

Some 2.5 million people in Iraq have been uprooted since the Islamic State militia started terrorizing the civilian population in 2014. While close to 2 million still live in IDP camps throughout the country like the Edno family, 0,5 million have become refugees in countries outside Iraq. Some people have been forced to move multiple times since the conflict surged in 2014. The current Iraqi displacement crisis is the largest in the Middle East.