Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 4000 masks were produced and distributed in Khanke, Sharya and Sheikhan by our FYF sewing team. FYF can´t emphasize the importance of wearing masks enough: protect yourself and the community you live in! With this effort FYF hopes to ensure the Yezidi community stays safe and healthy in a very difficult time.
FYF COVID-19 Response
The Yezidi community, like other communities, is vulnerable to health and economic implications of the COVID-19 virus and the lockdown measures to restrict its spread. In Iraq, more than 300,000 Yezidis live as IDPs in Northern Iraq, mostly in IDP camps. Restricted access to cleaning products, poor hygiene and sanitation conditions, and overcrowded living spaces pose serious dangers should the COVID-19 virus spread through the camps. For the Yezidis living in the Sinjar area, a severe lack of health infrastructure will impact and treatment for those who fall ill. The IDP community has only slightly better access to healthcare, and the lack of ventilators and advanced medical equipment places those in at-risk categories in further danger. The authorities have wisely put in place lockdowns and series of measures that vary by governorate. The unavoidable consequences of lockdown restrictions; however, include inability of civilians to work, shop, and access basic necessities. While the lockdown and restriction mobility measures have surely slowed the spread of COVID-19, they also place very real burdens on families that are already at risk and in need of basic supplies, especially IDPs living in tents or huts.
The Free Yezidi Foundation has done its part to flatten the curve since the first cases were reported in Iraq. FYF abides by all restrictions enforced by authorities, including mobility restrictions, staff wearing mandatory personal protective equipment (PPE). Meanwhile, FYF received permission to conduct humanitarian actions to help those in need during the crisis. This has included distribution of critical hygiene products, COVID-19 awareness pamphlets to inform camp residents of effective preventative hygiene habits and WHO recommendations, food and basic good distributions to those in greatest need, and manufacturing and distributing masks and kits for IDPs in and out of camp. FYF has adapted its classes, trauma treatment, justice efforts, and combatting GBV programs to ensure safe provision of services at reduced capacity, adhering to social distancing and the use of masks and gloves according to WHO guidelines. This has also included some digital solutions for educational and psychosocial support during more extended lockdown periods. Our Harikara (helpers) team has provided up-to-date information to camp residents about COVID-19 and preventative measures.
Prior to this crisis, the Yezidi community and FYF beneficiaries were already faced with difficult conditions, facing severe financial hardships, trauma, and homelessness as IDPs. Although the COVID-19 virus has not spread through the camp, there is serious concern that once it does, there will be serious health and welfare implications and little to be done for those most at-risk. FYF continues to work on this crisis by providing critical emergency aid and information while still providing the important services to a highly traumatized and endangered community. At the same time, we urge all other humanitarian actors working with the Yezidi population to begin preparing for the worst-case scenario: a widespread outbreak of COVID-19 through the densely population and poorly equipped Yezidi IDP community.