Baltimore, MD (IOCC) A massacre at one of Iraq's largest churches in October and continued attacks in predominantly Christian areas of central Baghdad highlight the continued danger for Iraq's Christian community. Many of Iraq's million and a half Christians wonder if they can continue to remain in their homeland.
Earlier this year, IOCC provided more than 1,500 Iraqi families in Baghdad with food and personal hygiene items and is currently seeking new ways to assist vulnerable families in the country.
An estimated 7,500 people received critical assistance in areas that have been the target of some of the greatest violence since 2003. Some of the families receiving assistance have been displaced by violence within Iraq and are unable to return back to their homes – some of which have since been destroyed.
Food assistance provided by IOCC has included high protein food supplies to combat increasing rates of malnutrition. The supplemental food was designed to provide for a more varied diet after needs assessments by international organizations in Iraq showed that access to food is one of the top priorities for people who have been displaced. Many of those displaced are not able to access government food rations – or fear for their safety if they venture out to receive them.
Isolated and vulnerable minorities, such as Christian communities, have been included in IOCC's humanitarian assistance program. The aid has been of particular importance given the recent resurgence of attacks by insurgents on churches in Baghdad and Christian families in other areas of the country.
An assessment of the most urgent needs is planned for 2011.
In addition to providing direct assistance to families living in Iraq, IOCC is also working to address the needs of Iraqi refugees living in neighboring countries. IOCC recently signed an agreement with the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration to provide food assistance, educational support and vocational training for Iraqi refugees and Syrians in Damascus, Aleppo, and Jazirat. It is estimated that the project will provide direct assistance to more than 56,000 people over the next two years. The project is being implemented with the Greek Orthodox Patriachate of Antioch and All the East.
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