Diapers for Refugees Update

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.

COVID-19 Impacts on Diaper Program

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.

Intesar and one of our ministry helpers.

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.

William J. Murray

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