IKEA Foundation helps restore sense of home for Syrian refugees in Iraq

News Stories, 30 July 2014

© UNHCR/C.Robinson
A Syrian father and his sons in northern Iraq carry bedding aid items donated by the IKEA Foundation.

ARBAT REFUGEE CAMP, Iraq, July 30 (UNHCR) Since arriving from Syria nearly a year ago, 52-year-old Halima Murad and her family have been at the mercy of Iraq's extreme weather in this camp near the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah.

In their tiny tent in the comparatively safe Iraqi Kurdistan region, the six of them have been exposed to winter temperatures dropping to zero Celsius, blistering summer temperatures of 45 degrees, and dust storms to boot. So she was particularly happy to be given a new mattress and quilt recently. "We don't have blankets for summer, only winter blankets and they are too heavy," said Halima.

Halima's family and 3,000 other Syrian refugees in this camp were some of 35,000 who came from Syria last August. Of the almost 3 million Syrians who have become refugees in the past three years, more than 250,000 have sought safety in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.

Halima's new mattress and quilt were part of a US$2.5 million donation of bedroom products from IKEA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the global furnishings company. The IKEA Foundation, UNHCR's largest private donor, has previously given products to the refugee agency for Syrians in Jordan and Lebanon. This is its first donation to UNHCR in Iraq.

"When conflicts turn peoples' lives upside down, we believe in supporting children and families who have lost everything by donating IKEA products that will give them a sense of security and home," said Jonathan Spampinato, head of strategic planning and communications for the IKEA Foundation.

Refugees in Arbat Camp will get 150,000 mattresses, quilts and bed linens over the next year. The UN refugee agency will distribute 80,000 mattresses to internally displaced Iraqis who were forced out of their homes by recent fighting between armed groups and government forces. Nearly 2,000 mattresses have been delivered to families in Al Hamdaniya, in Ninewa governorate in northern Iraq.

Back in Arbat Camp, Abdu Rachman Khalil, 36, was one of the first in line to receive two IKEA summer mattresses, quilts and pillow covers.

He, his wife Sita and their six children were looking forward to sleeping more comfortably in the scorching summer heat. "We needed these mattresses and blankets," he said, herding his children away from the distribution with a mattress rolled up under each arm. "The blankets are thin and good for the summer and the mattresses are very good quality."

By Catherine Robinson in Arbat Refugee Camp, Iraq

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Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to Iraq in July 2009 to offer support to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced within their own country.

During her day-long visit to Baghdad, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited a makeshift settlement for internally displaced people in north-west Baghdad where she met families displaced from the district of Abu Ghraib, located to the west of Baghdad, and from the western suburbs of the capital.

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UNHCR estimates that 1.6 million Iraqis were internally displaced by a wave of sectarian warfare that erupted in February 2006 after the bombing of a mosque in the ancient city of Samarra. Almost 300,000 people have returned to their homes amid a general improvement in the security situation since mid-2008.

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

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