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.
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