For Om Saker, the last seven years have felt like a lifetime. After an ISIS invasion in 2015 brought war and persecution upon her hometown, she was forced to flee Hatra, Iraq and live in displacement camps for three years. She managed to return in 2018, but the life she once knew had gone: her husband went missing, making Om Saker the sole provider for her three children: Hiba, Nada and Saker; she tragically lost her 6-month-old daughter Sada during displacement, compounding the emotional and financial distress she was under; and her old house is now destroyed. She is therefore living in a small tent next to her father-in-law’s humble home in Hatra, and when asked about how she managed to survive, she said “we depended on the support of kind people. We forgot what comfort is. Their father went missing and we [had] no source of income”.
Unfortunately, despite being back in Hatra, the family continues to face harsh conditions – especially during winter. Om Saker explains: “We only eat bread. Sometimes I receive assistance and I cook lunch and dinner for my children. Otherwise, we have nothing”. When asked about winter, she replies: “winter affects us terribly. I sometimes go to my sister’s. Sometimes, I stay here, with the rain water leaks inside. Every year, I hope to have some ease, but I’m still in the same situation. I have no salary, no money, I have nothing”.
That was until Om Saker started to receive UNHCR’s winter cash assistance, which is provided to the most vulnerable internally displaced and returnee families in Iraq. She joyfully recalls the moment when she received the SMS from UNHCR about the cash assistance: “I felt so happy that I couldn’t sleep. I received 140,000 Iraqi Dinar ($100). I couldn’t believe it… It covered my needs for 3-4 months. I felt comfortable and didn’t need to ask for anything from anyone”. With this vital assistance, Om Saker was able to pay off many of her debts and afford cooking some decent food for her children along with many other needs. “If we didn’t receive the assistance, we could have died out of hunger”, she says.
As she tries to make ends meet, Om Saker feels thankful in spite of the harsh conditions she has faced, and finds solace in being present with her children: “Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to bear the hardships. They provide me comfort until everything gets resolved… I pray that God provides us with some ease and that their father comes back. That’s all I pray for”.
Until then, Om Saker’s family – along with millions of others across Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt – will be in dire need of UNHCR’s winter cash assistance for their basic needs. This is only possible thanks to the generosity of our generous donors. Your support would go a long way to provide relief and comfort to the most in need displaced families, including female-headed households such as Om Saker and her family.