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Too cold to get out of bed

World Vision
6 January 2016 by Suzy Sainovski
Too cold to get out of bed

Mayan's family are among the many refugees and displaced people facing a cold winter away from their homes. Photo by Suzy Sainovski, World Vision

It is summer in Australia, but for refugees living in places like Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, the worst of winter is setting in. World Vision recently distributed winter kits to and 967 families living in Shekan camp for internally displaced people in Iraq, and 23 families living in unfinished buildings nearby. The kits contain warm blankets, plastic sheets, rope, a heater, carpet and mattresses. I visited to see how the winter kits were helping – and that was when I got to meet Mayan’s family.

On August 3, 2014, Mayan, her husband and their children fled the escalating violence in Iraq, along with thousands of others, to the Sinjar Mountains, where they were stranded for 15 days with little more than the clothes on their backs. Mayan shared, “Many died in the mountains and there was no food or water.”

The family then made their way towards the Syrian border where passing cars offered to take them to the safety of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. “When we first arrived at this unfinished building, we just slept on the ground. The community around here gave us food.” A few months after they arrived, a harsh winter set in. “That first winter here was so cold,” Mayan recalled.


This is part of Mayan’s family. Six-year-old Hareman is on the left left, and her eight-year-old brother Manaa on the right. Hareman stayed very close to her mum inside their tent. The family has lived here since they fled their home town in Iraq in August 2014.


Manaa and Hareman snuggle under a warm blanket that was provided to the family by World Vision along with other winter items such as a heater, plastic sheeting, rope, carpet and mattresses. Manaa and Hareman’s mum Mayan shared, “When it’s cold the kids get under the blankets and sometimes they ask me to get under the blankets with them to warm them up. On some cold winter mornings Hareman will say, ‘I’m hungry but it’s too cold to get out of bed. I will wait to see the sun.’ Sometimes I take breakfast to them in bed.”


Mayan, her husband and their children live on the first floor of this unfinished building along with their extended family. There are also displaced families living on the level below, and in another building nearby. Families have created makeshift clotheslines between the pillars of the unfinished building. There are a staggering 3.2 million internally displaced people in Iraq.


Hareman and Manaa have fun running around and playing football with their friends in the unfinished building despite the dangerous one storey drop on three sides of the building.


“When my hands are very cold I put them in my pockets,” shared Hareman. Current nighttime temperatures in this part of Iraq hover just above freezing and winter has only just begun. Last winter the local community donated clothing to displaced families.


The first sight of this building is quite a shocking one. It’s hard to believe that people actually live in these conditions. and the onset of winter makes an already difficult situation even more challenging for displaced families. Last winter was a particularly harsh one across the Middle East.

You can help World Vision provide refugees and displaced families with essential supplies by supporting our Syria Crisis response

Suzy Sainovski Suzy Sainovski

Suzy Sainovski is World Vision’s Syria Crisis Response Communications Director.


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