Diaper program: Our Diapers for Refugees program is still curtailed by Covid-19 which is severe in the Middle East. There is no access to Western produced vaccines except in Israel and in wealthy Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia.
In Jordan a Chinese vaccine is being used, and our main missions director there has had both shots because of his age. It does not much matter though that he got the shots — because he can’t go anywhere anyway, with most functions in Jordan still shut down.
Iraq is a mess, and I was incredibly surprised that Pope Francis travelled there in March, although I am thankful that he did. Pope Francis called to the attention of the world the plight of Christians in Iraq in a way that the mainstream media in the West has refused to do for decades. The Christian population of Iraq has been decimated since the second occupation by the United States began in 2003.
Despite the difficulties, there are successes in places such as Bethlehem and Beit Sahour in the West Bank.
West Bank: Diapers are being provided for a number of elderly Christians living in a nursing home operated by the Antonian Charitable Organization. And at the House of God shelter for children with special needs, diapers are provided for 24 handicapped children suffering from mental and physical problems. The shelter provides the children alternative nonstop care. Third, the Greek Orthodox Church in Beit Sahour (Shepherds’ Field) received diapers to help 10 vulnerable elderly individuals living in poverty and in need of daily necessities. Many of these vulnerable adults are residing in the St. Nicholas nursing home in Bethlehem.
Jordan: Because the adult diapers are so expensive and the need is so great, we cannot do mass distributions. Each case of need is looked at by our ministry partner in Jordan. Just one example is an elderly Christian woman who lives in the town of Safout. She suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, and had a stroke that caused paralysis. She is unable to move. Diapers and wet wipes are provided to her daughter regularly to care for her.
There are dozens more cases of Christians in such need, many of them refugees from the Iraq and Syria wars that have injuries that cause them to be unable to control their bladder or bowels. There is no medical aid for refugees other than from relief agencies. Jordan, just like Lebanon, is simply too poor to care for the medical needs of refugees.
Iraq: Our Diaper program for Assyrian Christians displaced from their homes and jobs in northern Iraq costs out at over $13,000 per month and includes diapers for unemployed Christian families with infants and elderly who have no other place to go for the diapers they need so badly.
Back to “normal.” I am not sure what normal will be like in six months or one year. I would like to see the Diaper program back to distribution centers as it was before. In Iraq, Jordan and the West Bank diapers must be delivered to homes and care centers because of government restrictions. This makes our work difficult, demanding and exposes workers to illnesses.
Diapers for Refugees: The Covid-19 situation and continued lockdowns in the Middle East have stalled much of our Diapers for Refugees efforts, particularly in Iraq. Lockdowns are a real problem for many ministries operating in Middle East nations. Because medical care is so limited in some, the only solution the governments can seem to come up with is lockdowns.
A reality check: California had nearly total lockdowns with even public parks and beaches closed. Florida had virtually no lockdowns. The result? The numbers of infections per 100,000 residents were almost exactly the same in both California and Florida.
Charts of month infection rates shows the two states as almost identical although Florida had fewer cases of Covid-19 and fewer hospitalizations per one million residents than California overall. The lockdowns did little to help, and many people were infected in their homes by someone that had to work.
It isn’t getting better in the Middle East because many of those nations cannot afford to buy any Covid-19 vaccines. They do lockdowns instead making economic measures worse.
Because of the lockdowns our Diapers for Refugees program came to a halt except inside some churches. In the Iraqi city of Dohuc we have one church distributing infant diapers, and the Assyrian Aid Society distributing both infant diapers and adult diapers to the neediest Christians.
Our diaper and food programs in the areas of the Holy Land controlled by the Palestinian Authority continue, but again the number of cases there continues to climb.
Although Israel had inoculated over half its population by mid-February, only 5,000 doses of vaccine had made their way to the West Bank where 2.9 million Palestinians live. None of the 5,000 vaccine shots were given to Christians in the West Bank. (Note: Our worker there, and his entire family have already suffered from Covid-19. )
The Christian population of the West Bank has dropped under Palestinian Authority control and is now about 50,000, far too few to maintain a self-sustaining population.
We have a food program for those Christian families most in need in Bethlehem and in the Christian town of Beit Sahour. Each month our worker and volunteers deliver packages of food to impoverished Christian families.
Lists of families in great need are obtained from churches and each has a story.
One of the families consists of a widow who has 5 children. Her husband died 10 years ago at the age of 35 due to cancer. She was left all alone to raise and provide for her 5 children.
Another family we help consists of a widow named Nadia, 71 years old, living with her 2 sons. Her eldest son is 50 years old and is unable to work due to being almost completely blind. He can only see within a yard and with a blurry vision. The other son has been handicapped most of his life and unable to move his body on his own at all.
Nadia is now unable to work due to her age and physical health and is constantly in need of support as there isn’t any source of income for the family. When we knocked on her door and provided her with the food packages and told her that we will see her in a month, she was both confused and happy, with tears in her eyes that she was holding back in front of us.
There is no help for Christian families such as these from the Palestinian Authority. In the next newsletter I will share more stories of these families with you.
The Coronavirus pandemic has created both physical and financial barriers to our programs to help persecuted Christians.
In my work to serve the victims of radical Islam, the need is so great, and my time and resources are stretched so thin that it can be easy to get discouraged.
Restrictions caused by the Coronavirus have been even more discouraging.
For the last two months our ministry partners in Iraq have been unable to deliver adult diapers to those who have a critical need, including some elderly and those wounded during Islamic State attacks who cannot leave their homes.
The lock-down in Iraq may be over soon and I am concerned that the backlog of need will be far greater than we are able to fill.
With few stores having been able to open in the Nineveh Plain after the brutality of occupation by the Islamic State, there are few places available to purchase even basic needs.
My heart aches for those in whose homes I have been, those whom I have prayed with and promised aid to. One I am concerned about is Intesar. I told you about her in a newsletter last year.
Intesar was just 38 years old when I met her. She is a paralyzed mother of two who receives adult diapers from Diapers for Refugees.
She told me her story:
“In 2005 I went to a clinic at Mosul to receive a treatment…unfortunately, when I finished my visit and was on the way to my home village (Qaraqosh), I was shot by an unknown gunman during confrontations between U.S. military troops and terrorists. This shot has changed me from being a normal woman to a paralyzed woman.”
Intesar stopped talking for a while as her eyes filled with tears while she described the crisis she had gone through.
When asked about her living conditions when ISIS occupied Qaraqosh, she replied:
“In August 2014 ISIS started to attack Qaraqosh with mortar fire, some people were killed, and then everyone started to escape from there seeking refuge in Erbil. It was so crowded, tragic to see such view.”
“We left everything behind and went to an unknown future, after waiting for so long in the main checkpoint of Erbil. We finally managed to get in the city, at that time we were sleeping in the streets and gardens. It was so hard for us. Now, we rent a small house because ISIS burned our entire house after collecting our furniture and putting it in the middle of the house to ensure that the fire would increase faster and destroy the house totally. They destroyed all our beautiful memories with it.”
“We don’t have adequate money to rebuild our house. My husband is just a daily worker and we lost all our belongings and savings during the war with ISIS. So many of us are fighting just to live,” she said.
“These helpful diapers are one of my much-needed items that will help me survive. Your team is doing an effective role in presenting services that the government cannot or does not provide for disabled people with their families. You indicate that you do love me through your visit. God bless you all for your faithful loving service to our Lord.”
Stories like Intesar’s tell me why Diapers for Refugees should continue the adult diaper program and expand it, even at a cost of 50 cents each in Iraq.
There is no Medicare or Medicaid in Iraq, and there is no social security for the elderly. Many older Iraqis whose sons were killed by the Islamic State now have no one to support them. They must seek out charity for their needs.
Many of the injured such as Intesar do not have even the shell of their former home left, and now must live in smaller rentals that often also have been damaged by the terrorists of the Islamic State who occupied their towns.
Other Christian Iraqis, including young families with babies and toddlers, have returned to their ancestral homes on the Nineveh Plain.
They have returned to looted and destroyed homes, often without clean running water and with few job opportunities.
My friend, our ministry is blessed to have the opportunity to make a very real impact on Christians who have suffered loss and humiliation.
This is why I have prayed daily through the Coronavirus emergency that the Religious Freedom Coalition would be able to continue to provide diapers every month.
Not just to the disabled elderly, but directly to the babies and toddlers of Christian mothers in the Nineveh Plain of Iraq who have suffered so at the hands of Islamic terror.
Two million diapers in 2019: In September the Lord provided the funds through ministry supporters to purchase a four-month supply of diapers instead of three months. The purchase was a real blessing because it relieved the burden of buying and shipping diapers the same month as the Christmas programs in Iraq.
In total, over two million diapers were purchased for distribution in Iraq. Diapers are purchased in bulk four times a year. All diapers are not distributed when shipments are accepted.
We maintain large seagoing containers which we use to warehouse the diapers. Containers are in Ankawa, which is near Erbil, and also at a facility in Qaraqosh. The real name of Qaraqosh, from the time it was an Assyrian Christian town, was Baghdadi. The name was changed when it was overrun by Muslims centuries ago.
I often refer to “two million diapers” but in reality, we buy and distribute many more. The Religious Freedom Coalition is furnishing tens of thousands of adult diapers for special needs. We also supply feminine pads to the mothers of the infants and toddlers.
On the Nineveh Plain, the people have given us the nickname of the Diaper Ministry!
Diapers for Jordan: The Diapers for Refugees program was expanded to Jordan in December of 2018. The majority of diaper recipients in Jordan are special needs Iraqi and Syrian refugees. There are over two million refugees in Jordan with 1.4 million of those “unregistered.” For the most part the Christians, for obvious reasons, are not registered.
No diapers this December: As mentioned in a recent newsletter, the Diapers for Refugees program has changed the dates we buy diapers making December a lot easier to manage financially.
In September we were able to buy diapers for four months by setting up the next purchase date in January instead of December. That is good news … But we still need $28,000 to buy a three-month supply of diapers in January.
Please pray that provision will be made not only for the shipment of diapers in January but for all of 2020 as well. There is a huge need for adult special needs diapers for the elderly and those with severe disabilities. Please pray for all those we assist in Iraq and other nations with the Diapers for Refugees program.
Why so many? Why is there such a horrific need for adult special needs diapers in Iraq?
One of the reasons for the need is physical injuries suffered during 18 years of continuous war in Iraq.
I have previously I told the story of Intesar (38), a paralyzed mother of two who receives adult diapers from our Diapers for Refugees program. She was paralyzed when hit by crossfire between American troops and Islamic State terrorists.
But cases like hers do not explain the large number of young people born with neurological disorders and other issues the last 10 to 15 years that cause them to need diapers the rest of their lives.
I am beginning to understand the cause and it is not going to go away.
Many of those born with neurological problems have high levels of uranium and thorium in their bodies. Some close to American bases have radiation levels in their teeth 28 times greater than normal. A lot of the ammunition we used in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan was made out of depleted uranium.
“Depleted” sounds safe, but there is no such thing as uranium that is not radioactive. Even the raw ore coming from the ground is radioactive.
But there is a bigger issue. Chemically, uranium causes the same problems that lead does.
Uranium mines are not safe and mining companies take steps to protect workers. Safeguards are mandated by the Federal government. The state of Virginia has the largest reserves of uranium in the nation and will not allow mining because of the dangers.
A mining association report says thaturanium ore “…has chemical toxicity similar to lead, so occupational hygiene precautions are taken similar to those in a lead smelter.”
In other words, the uranium can cause the same neurological damage as lead even if it was not radioactive, which it is. Yes, it is a small amount of radiation. The problem is the length of exposure. Children near American bases and in areas where there was heavy combat are showing the signs of neurological damage.
I am not judging the kind of ammunition our military forces use in Iraq or elsewhere. I am no expert on what is effective. All I know is that we need a lot more diapers for special needs children.
In the middle of preparations for the Christmas for Refugees program I can’t work on the special needs’ diapers program … but I promise you I will beginning in January. This problem is not going to go away.
There are many elderly who did not receive proper medical care during the last two decades who now require diapers. There are many middle-age and young who were injured in bombings and shot by the Islamic State. Then there are the younger ones that break my heart because they will never have normal lives.
The suffering of these younger Iraqi Christians is not abstract for me. My wife Nancy and I have been in their homes. We have prayed with them and we have promised them help. I intend, with the help of the Lord, to keep my promise to them.
The Diapers for Refugees program we operate in the Nineveh Plain is an essential program that no other organization offers. We are also the only organization furnishing sanitary napkins to women in that area.
The adult diapers, not only for the elderly but for younger people with special needs, can literally change lives. I have mentioned before about being in the homes of some in need of adult diapers, talking and praying with them.
Iraq has literally been in a state of war since 2003. By the
official end of the war in 2011, 4,497 American service personnel had died and
26,050 were wounded. Estimates are that more than 600,000 Iraqi civilians have
died — and that does not include those murdered by the Islamic State (ISIS). The Christian population of Iraq
has been reduced by 83%.
The destruction of hospitals by all sides and the number of doctors who have fled, has caused a drastic rise in the number of children born with severe disabilities. I have visited with some of these children and their families, and prayed for many of them.
Now there is a new crisis on the Nineveh Plain, as Syrian families with elderly parents or special needs children cross over into this area of Iraq. As of now we are reaching only a small percentage of the Syrian Christian refugees who need help.
To expand the diaper program to the Syrian refugees in the Nineveh Plain would cost an additional $5,000 a month. We cannot make that commitment now.
For now, we must get through 2019. Please pray this month for the success of the diaper program this year.
Diapers often increase the overall quality of life for elderly and special needs Christian refugees.
Special needs adult diapers: I received the first request for adult diapers in 2018. Our team had been so centered on the babies and toddlers and their needs that the idea of adult diapers had never been considered.
I did not think there would be a big demand for the adult diapers. I was wrong!
The percentage of older adults with special needs for diapers is far higher than in the United States because of the lack of medical care during war time. Infections that could have been cured caused damage that could never be undone.
Until I talked to some of those receiving the adult diapers, I did not understand how much lives were changed for the better by them. In many cases it is a matter of being able to sleep through the night. There were tears in the eyes of one man who told me how his life was changed by having the diapers. He told me he could sleep on a mattress for the first time in years!
The budget for the adult diapers just keeps growing and we are not even dealing with a large population. We are only supplying the needs of the Christian community on the Nineveh Plain. Our entire operation in Iraq is within 200 square miles. Our ministry partners in Jordan have been asking for assistance with the adult diapers as well. Again, the problems were mostly caused by lack of medical care. In Jordan the medical care was not available because of money. All the Iraqi and Syrian Christians are there illegally as refugees, and are not allowed to work. Most of those have no homes to go back to.
I do not want this ministry in the situation where we are able to do something one time and then never again. Promises should not be made if they that cannot be kept. We have been able to begin a small Diapers for Refugees program in Jordan targeting mostly elderly with special needs. The budget for 2019 is set, but we will try to do more in 2020.
While many Christian refugee families are unable to fully provide for their children, the government and other global organizations do not provide support.
Babies still need diapers: It is just not right to ask a young married couple to not have children because they are refugees through no fault of their own, but that is exactly what the United Nations and USAID expects. The United Nations, USAID and the EU hand out condoms and birth control pills.
If the young families are expected to hold off having children until the society in Iraq and Syria is back to “normal” economically, then they will never have children. It will take Iraq at least 50 years to recover from the 2003 invasion; the uprising against the US occupation and then the war with the Islamic State.
Although it is no longer in the news, there is still fighting going on in Iraq. There are still pockets of the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda.
Rayan xxxxxxxxxxxxxx(36) is a displaced Christian father of a one-year old daughter named Rebeca. He has been displaced from Bartella with his family since 2014 due to ISIS taking over their home, causing them to flee and take refuge in the city of Erbil. Rayan was one of the first people to return back home because of his love for his own village and his grandparents land. When he returned to see if his house was still livable, he was shocked to see the house totally burned into rubble. When asked about his living situation and his job, he smiled and said, “I work as an electrical employee. Some days I get payments, and some days I do not. Most people don’t have enough funds to rebuild their houses. If relatives and neighbors call me to help them in fixing electrical cables in their houses, I will get money on those days. Otherwise, I am still without money and I sometimes can’t feed my family. The wages don’t exceed $8 per day for 8 hours of working, which covers just a part of living costs for my family. We are dependent on your regular distribution of diapers and it greatly helps us as a family in saving some money to put towards our living situation. Actually, my wife was concerned two days ago because we used our last diaper and we do not have money to buy a new sack, but I told her I trust in our Lord that he will send your team to deliver diapers. I would have had to buy diapers instead of rice if there was any delay. Praise the Lord your team came at the same day. It is very encouraging what the Lord is doing to stand alongside us. Unfortunately, we are feeling like strangers in our home village due to the persecution we had faced by ISIS. Now, most of the citizens in Bartella are from Muslim background and many Christian citizens immigrated to foreign countries”.
Intesar xxxxxxxxxxxxxx (38), is a paralyzed mother of two and is currently among the many displaced Christians from Qaraqosh, this is her story.
“In 2005 I went to clinic at Mosul to receive a treatment …unfortunately, when I finished my visit and was on the way to my home village (Qaraqosh), I was shot by an unknown gunman during confrontations between US military troops and terrorists. This shot has changed me from being a normal woman to a paralyzed woman.” Intesar stops talking for a while as her eyes fill with tears while she describes the crisis that she was going through. When asked about her living conditions when ISIS occupied Qaraqosh, she replied “we were forced to flee away from Qaraqosh and were displaced from it in June 2014, at that time we went to Erbil. Then in August 2014 ISIS started to attack Qaraqosh with mortar fire, some people were killed, and then everyone started to escape from there seeking refuge in Erbil. It was so crowded, tragic to see such view. We left everything behind and went to an unknown future, after waiting for so long in the main checkpoint of Erbil. We finally managed to get in the city, at that time we were sleeping in the streets and gardens. It was so hard for us. Now, we rent a small house because ISIS burned our entire house after collecting our furniture and putting it in the middle of the house to ensure that the fire would increase rapidly and destroy the house totally. They destroyed all our beautiful memories with it. We don’t have adequate money to rebuild our house. My husband is just a daily worker and we lost all our belongings and savings during the war with ISIS. So many of us are fighting just to live. These helpful diapers are one of my much needed items that will help me survive. Your team is doing an affective role in presenting services that the government cannot or does not provide any support for disabled people with their families. You indicate that you do love me through your visit. God bless you all for your faithful loving service to our Lord”.