Just as it did during most of 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic continues to create 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 thin.
Restrictions caused by the coronavirus have caused even more stress on our systems to distribute aid to persecuted Christians.
Since March of last year our ministry partners in Iraq have had great difficulty delivering adult diapers to those who have critical needs and cannot leave their homes, including the elderly and those wounded during Islamic State attacks.
Our operations in Erbil have been forced to shut down and we are now working with partners in Duhok, which is north of Erbil.
Duhok, a city of 1.5 million, is the center of Assyrian Christian culture but now has scores of empty churches, as Christians have been forced to abandon the area over the last several decades.
Many Christians are in poverty, having had their homes and businesses destroyed by the Islamic State.
Many of those in need in Duhok are from the same Christian towns as those who also fled to Erbil. They are displaced in their own homeland.
There is no Medicare or Medicaid in Iraq, and there is no social security for the elderly. Many older Christians, particularly women whose sons were killed by the Islamic State, have no one to support them. They must seek out charity for their needs.
The Christian community in Iraq has been badly broken by the continued attacks since the first Gulf War. The Islamic State destroyed Christian families and homes, and the Muslim controlled Iraqi government does little to help Christians rebuild. Then came Covid-19!
One church we were working with in Duhok was hit hard by Covid-19 and had to suspend operations. Medical care had already been poor in Iraq, before Covid-19 completely overwhelmed the hospitals.
My good friend Ashur Eskrya, who was president of the Assyrian Aid Society, died due to Covid-19 in April. His organization was one of those assisting in the distribution of diapers.
As bad as Covid-19 is in Iraq, we still managed to distribute about 10,000 adult diapers monthly to special needs elderly adults and 50,000 diapers monthly to destitute families with infants.
Each month the reports from Duhok arrive on my desk, with the stories of special needs adults that break my heart.
Often, along with the reports are photos that I just cannot share here, such as one of a man whose feet had turned black from lack of proper medical care.
There are still lockdowns in Iraq. Hopefully those lockdowns will end this year.
When the lockdowns finally end, it is important that we have in place the financial resources to reach the special needs adults, including those gravely wounded by Islamic terror.
Young families are financially worse off than ever as the Christian population continues to shrink in Iraq. Parents with babies and toddlers have returned to their ancestral homes on the Nineveh Plains to find factories and businesses destroyed.
What work there is goes to Muslim men, not Christians.
Iraqi and Syrian Christians have fled to Jordan.
There is still fighting in Iraq and the Sunni Muslim revolt is still ongoing in Syria.
Many of the Christian Iraqi and Syrian refugees we help in Jordan are not infants. Many of those receiving aid are elderly and have special needs. Because they are not Jordanian citizens, they receive no government aid.
Many we supply adult diapers to in Jordan are not elderly but were wounded in terror attacks or are extremely ill. Mrs. Al-Daoud, an elderly woman now living in Safout, Jordan had a stroke during an attack that caused her paralysis, and she is unable to move.
Mrs. Al-Daoud is not a citizen of Jordan and receives no government aid. We supply adult diapers and wet wipes to her continuously. Without state aid she must rely upon an unemployed daughter who came with her for all her needs.
Despite the Covid-19 lockdowns we are able to continuously supply diapers to 97 special needs Christian adults, most of them elderly but some younger who are paralyzed.
Up until Covid-19 began to sweep across the world the Diapers for Refugees program was growing in Jordan and Iraq.
During 2019 we were able to increase the size of the program, so the cost per diaper went down. The more diapers we are able to buy at one time, the less each diaper costs!
The bad news is that our funding has become tighter as the coronavirus has affected the incomes of the vast majority of Americans.
In 2019 we were able to deliver over two million diapers to toddlers, infants and special needs adults. In 2020 our totals were down to one million, but our costs per diaper increased.
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.
Our Diapers for Refugees program continues to
function in most areas other than Iraq, where there are continuing problems
because of Covid-19. Notably in Jordan
we have expanded the distribution of adult diapers to more elderly and special
needs people in need. Most of those are either Iraqi or Syrian refugees who do
not qualify for any aid from the Jordanian government, as they are not
The diaper program has also expanded in the West Bank areas of Bethlehem
and Beit Sahour. Adult diapers continue to be given at a Christian care center
there, but we have also ordered diapers for a Christian orphanage that takes in
severely handicapped children. As the children there are older, more expensive
diapers are required.
Please pray for all affected by Covid-19. Please pray for our continued
mission to persecuted Christians, in particular the children.
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.
Two million diapers in 2019: More help is needed for Christian families on the Biblically important Nineveh Plain — not less.
There is no running water in many of the Christian towns on the Nineveh Plain.
Two full years after liberation, areas of Qaraqosh still look like this. Note that the power lines actually are not connected to anything.
Their water came from the dam on the Tigris river near the major Iraqi city of Mosul. That was the largest Iraqi city held by the Islamic State and it took more than a year for the Iraqi Army and Shia militias to take the city back from the Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State even with nearly constant bombing by The United States and other Western air forces.
The electric power plants were destroyed in the bombing. The water treatment plants were destroyed in the bombing. The water pumping stations were destroyed in the bombings. Most of the power lines came down and the water pipelines were hit as well.
When I was in Iraq this past December, there were still craters in roads. While many of the bridges that were bombed by the Western Coalition to stop Islamic State movements have been rebuilt, there are still some bridges that are down making transporting water difficult.
It gets worse: As I have mentioned previously in newsletters the water from wells on the Nineveh Plain is as salty as the sea. The well water is not drinkable. Cloth diapers cannot be washed in well water as the salt will stay in the diapers and irritate babies, causing diaper rash. The whole purpose of our Diapers for Refugees program is to reduce or stop completely the problem of severe diaper rash that can cause bacterial infections.
During 2018 the need for diapers increased as families moved away from aid centers and tried to move back to their looted homes.
As more families move back to Bartella, Qaraqosh, and other towns on the Nineveh Plain they receive less aid than they could have gotten in the larger city of Erbil.
Keep in mind that every Christian home was looted. The washing machines are gone as are the stoves, air conditioners, furniture and even the clothes and dishes.
Because of the images many Americans have of those living in the Middle East, I have to emphasize over and over again that these Christian families were almost all well educated and middle class.
The Christian families did not live in tents or huts, like the image many have set in their minds. Many of these homes were anywhere from 1,500 to 4,000 sq. ft. and had tiled floors with full modern baths and kitchens. That is all gone, every bit of it.
I have been in these homes … before and after. I have enjoyed dinner in more than one Christian Arab home in the Middle East. I have met Christian men and women who are doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. Some were millionaires before the invasion.
I have also seen the jihadist writings on the walls of destroyed homes. I have visited the shops and even factories that were owned by Christians that now lie empty or in ruins.
There was a huge metal door and window factory at the entrance to Qaraqosh that now lies in ruins. All of the equipment was stolen and carted off to Turkey.
Currently the biggest industry in Iraq is demolition and the reprocessing of scrap metal and cement. Those are not great paying jobs.
And sadly, I must report that most of the wealthy Christians, those that were millionaires fled to Europe during the occupation by the Islamic State. They don’t plan on coming back. Without the wealthy the rebuilding process will be even slower.
Every dollar counts in a situation like this: This is why the Diapers for Refugees program is so important. Every dollar’s worth of diapers we can furnish to families in need is one more dollar they have to rebuild their shattered lives, one more dollar to help buy dishes or linens or a mattress to sleep on.
These are the reasons I want to keep the Diapers for Refugees program alive in 2019.
Diapers for Refugees: One million more diapers this year!
Good news: I have sent the $35,000 to Iraq needed to purchase 500,000 diapers for distribution in September.
We distribute six sizes of diapers to displaced Christian families. The small blue package is women’s sanitary pads. Not pictured are adult diapers for special needs individuals.
Bad news: We still need $35,000 for the December distribution at the same time we are preparing for the Christmas for Refugees program expansion.
It will be difficult to raise the $35,000 needed for the diapers at the same time we are raising funds for the Christmas for Refugees program which will be serving refugee children and their families in four, and hopefully five, different nations. Please help Christian refugee children
We are currently buying 500,000 diapers at a time which greatly reduces the cost. Each diaper shipment supplies diapers for about 2,000 infants and toddlers over a three-month period. Since we buy in this quantity, we can buy them direct from the factory in Turkey for just 3.7 cents each. Over a three-month period, around 300 diapers are distributed per child. The actual number for each child depends upon age. Packages contain from 24 to 44 diapers depending on the age.
Diapers for Refugees will distribute 888 of these packages of adult diapers in September to those in the most need
The Diapers for Refugees program began in 2016 when I learned of the horrors caused by a lack of clean diapers. Some babies were scarred for life from extreme diaper rash that became infected. Cloth diapers could not be washed properly as there was no hot water and so many people were sharing the limited bathroom facilities that there were outbreaks of disease.
As Christian families move back to their looted and burned out homes in the Nineveh Plain, the situation has not improved. The well water has the same content of salt as sea water and can’t be used to wash cloth diapers. Drinking and cooking water must be trucked in for perhaps another year, until lines are repaired to bring in fresh water from elsewhere.
Adult diapers are a separate issue. We are buying 888 packages of special needs adult diapers for distribution in September. These are very high quality manufactured in Turkey. There is a great need for these among very elderly Christians who did not receive critical medical care earlier.
Please pray with me that all the funds needed for the Diapers for Refugees program for the rest of the year will be raised well before the beginning of the Christmas season. There is a critical need.
I do not want to be forced to choose between funding the Diaper program in December or cutting back on the number of children and their families we can help celebrate the Lord’s birth at Christmas for Refugees events.
Many of these Christians have seen loved ones die in horrible, violent ways and at the very least all of them have lost their homes and possessions. Let’s do what we can to help them! Help Christian Refugee children today
More Christian refugees to be helped: I arrived in the Middle East on June 14th at the end of Ramadan. I do not travel to majority Islamic nations during the Islamic “holy month” of Ramadan because in most places I could be jailed just for drinking water during the day.
Jordan, under the current King is not as strict, but restaurants are still closed during the day. In Iraq – the nation that the United States brought democracy to – an individual can be jailed for up to six months for eating or drinking anything (even water) during the day. Regardless of work, even outside in 100-degree weather, drinking water is not allowed.
I have been in northern Iraq since the 19th to observe our expanded Diapers for Refugees program. Since we are doubling the number of diapers and feminine products delivered to displaced Christians this year, it is important to make sure the facilities and personnel are sufficient to carry out the program.
The first month of the Diapers for Refugees program in March of 2016, the Religious Freedom Coalition distributed 160,000 diapers at a cost of $18,000. This was a sufficient supply for 300 infants and toddlers for 3 months. We purchase in large quantities every three months to obtain the best bulk price available.
In June of this year we transferred more than $35,000, or nearly double the original shipment cost in 2016, but not all of that was for diapers.
266,500 diapers for $29,750 – 9,000 feminine pads for $2,230 and 6,200 adult diapers for $3,720
I am praying that the actual diaper count will be at 32,000 in September which would be double our distribution in September of last year.
The Amazon problem: To accomplish this we must make up for the funding we would have received from supporters making purchases at Amazon. I have added a new support category below for those who would like to specifically donate to replace the lost funding from Amazon’s decision that the Religious Freedom Coalition is a “hate group” which they refuse to allow their customers to donate to.
Please continue to pray for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. Also, please pray that the Congress finally passes a version of HR-390 that actually helps persecuted Christians in the Middle East. I also ask your prayers for the success of the mission I am on in Iraq this month.
Doubling the Diaper Program in Iraq: Our recent poll of supporters currently gives the Diapers for Refugees program first place among our programs, but it is still number two overall. Most of those responding to the January poll so far have told me to “Do it all / Whichever you think is best” which includes Diapers for Refugees, Christmas for Refugees, the Nigeria Easter program and our advocacy programs on Capitol Hill.
That is a tall order. The current isolated status of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq where our mission on the Nineveh Plain is located makes the tall order even more complicated.
This year, I want more than anything to double our diaper program in Iraq. In December 2017 we managed to increase the program more than 10%, even though the cost of the diapers increased. The December diaper program in Iraq cost $22,000 rather than the $18,000 cost in each previous quarter. In the quarter ending in December, we delivered 180,000 diapers.
In March we were able to increase the amount to 220,000 diapers at a cost of $24,950, bring us almost 40% towards doubling the program this year! Sanitary pads for 250 mothers will cost $230 and special needs diapers for 60 older people will cost $720. The grand total for March was $25,900.
However, this significant increase was only made possible by one very generous supporter whom the Lord has blessed who donated $8,000 toward the March diaper delivery. I am worried we may not be able to maintain this growth for the June diaper delivery.
Please pray that once again we will meet our goal in June of expanding the diaper program. The need is so great for these refugee families!
Chairman William Murray traveled to Iraq to help with the diaper deliveries and distributions in June.
Our ministry partners in Iraq have pleaded with me to expand the diaper program. In December of 2017 they made an urgent request to increase the quarterly shipment of diapers from 160,000 to 180,000 and to increase the number of adult diapers and feminine sanitary pads.
I had closed our fundraising for the program in July of 2017 as I thought our goal for the year had been met. The increase in need presented a problem. By the grace of God, unsolicited donations to the Diapers for Refugees were received in December allowing the program to be expanded.
Double the program? During 2016 and 2017 diapers were being supplied to the families “most in need.” Many families in the refugee camps in Ankawa and Erbil we did not help with diapers were able to “get by.” Now, many of those families have moved back to their devastated towns including Qaraqosh where the only water available is bottled water for drinking. Washing cloth diapers is not possible and now the need for the disposable diapers we furnish has drastically increased.
The hard facts: The numbers in our diaper program sound big. But, the Diapers for Refugees program provides for just six diapers per day for 300 of the Christian families with infants and toddlers that are in the most need. As they return to the destroyed homes in their villages without access to other aid, the number of families needing help with diapers now exceeds 600. That is double the number our Diapers for Refugee program now assists.
To help those Christian families most in need the program must be doubled from 160,000 diapers per quarter to 320,000 diapers per quarter, YES – The number sounds high but it is just six diapers per day for three months per child. Younger infants receive more, toddlers less but the average is just six per day or 180 per month for each child in need.
In addition, our program must supply feminine pads for the mothers and adult diapers for some of the elderly.
Please add these families to your prayers. To double the program would be an enormous task. Please pray that the Lord will give guidance as to how to proceed with the diaper program.
If possible, please help us get a good start on the 2018 Diapers for Refugees program. The program must continue even if we are not able to expand. Pray the Lord will guide us.