The journey from Italy to Erbil (Iraq) is always very hard, due to the schedules and length.

We are three: myself, Arianna, Andrea Palmucci (the phhotographer), and Marino Andolini (the doctor).

All of us are prepared for little sleep and tiredness.

After weeks of never-ending contacts and visas that seemed never to come we are ready to leave.

We land at night. It is very cold. Three hours more by car to reach our final destination: Sulaymaniyya, the town in Iraq, capital of the governatorate bearing the same name.

We get there at dawn and find accommodation in a block of the Red Crecent. No heating, even 3 blankets cannot give us some warmth to rest for a few hours.

Then meetings and meetings with our referents of the Red Crecent who organized the logistics of distribution of food supplies backed and brought there by our Onlus organization.

We meet also some people from ONU, UNHCR, and UFPA who are present in the refugee camps we support and are going to visit.

As it always happens, we visit some families at death point. They escaped from Afrin bringing with them just the bare minimum to survive.

The day after we go to Camp Barika. In a heavy rain that soon becomes sleet, and with a temperature below zero, we start the distribution of 527 parcels of food supplies. A full truck.

Marino Andolina , vith no rest, works all day long. I am freezing and, I must admit, am unable to do something.


The most vulnerable families had been chosen: orphans, war widows, seriously ill people, very large families.Later on, after our leaving, other 337 parcels will be handed out.

The distribution takes place under a shelter, but the queue of people waiting is so long that most of them are in the rain.

It is cold, very cold, and myself, Arianna, despite being properly dressed, almost feel ill.

Bare foot children, wearing just a cotton sweatshirt, exausted mothers with dull eyes, old people sitting on the ground. Nobody is ready to help an old woman alone. You cannot call first the weakest.

The distribution goes on in the sleet, that bites you , till early afternoon.

The camp is a shantytown, soaked in mud. Even in the rain we meet chilly children

who wander about or work. Some of them play, many come near. A lot of mothers follow us to offer something to eat, they want to thank us for the help given to their children, and also for the shots taken by Andrea with great tact and smiles.

It  was a hard, very hard job! The cold gives no escape,  wet to the bones!

But we will be back in our hotel tonight, we will have a good dinner, a bed and many blankets. A cold shower and a heater for the night.

We leave children, mothers, fathers and old people in conditions where we wouldn’t even have dogs.

And this does not make you sleep.


Next day we ask, as agreed, to visit other camps just to understand how to help them.

What we meet at Hasty and Arbat Camps is no different from what we saw the day before. The only difference is that these camps give hospitality to internal evacuated people receiving a little help from the Government.


We realize that we can never help everyone, never and never!

It would take tens of thousands of euros just now that funds have been cut to UNHCR.

We will try to focus on just one camp, Barika camp, and on a number of vulnerable families.

Ambitious project for which we have no money but we must find it because we cannot look elsewhere.

The snow falls thicker and softer.

Due to the snow a lot of people and, above all, children will die and we can’t do anything.

The return trip to Erbil, at night under the snow, was critical.

I personally leave with the feeling that what we have done is never enough.

How to explain to my children that we have only alleviated a small part of suffering and indifference?

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In February 2017 we went to Iraq on our first mission there. The camp was situated
a few kilometers from Mosul. Wlile approaching the camp we could see, in the distance, the smoke and we could hear the sounds of war.

Someone, who works with our association, stayed there trying to understand
how we could help the thousands of people trapped there and that should be evacuated through the help of international organizations. By May, they say, everything will come to an end, and milion of people will need help and relief. Often we ask ourselves: ” why we went there”?
We already know the answer: ” there, too, there is need of assistance, just as in Turkey and Jordan where we will carry on with our missions.

In one of the Kurdish Yazidi refugee camps we found Elisa, the little girl you see in the picture, suffering from Epidermolysis bullosa. She is 3years old and lives in an organized refugee camp, one of those camps well structured, with proper, tidy tents, with access to drinking water. One of
those camps with the army at the entrance and soldiers on the boundaries. You can get in just if you have a Yazidi guide, if you do not speak Arabic and inside the camp it is forbidden to take photos (the only ones we took was at our risk and danger). Are organized camps better than the free, non official ones ? We are not sure. In the camp where little Elisa lives, the atmosphere is tense and unreal. You breathe the war climate even if the area is protected.

Not too far away, outside the organized camp, in a shanty town where some yazidi curdi live, we found Dilgash, he too suffering from Epidermolysis bullosa. His illness is very serious and he suffers a lot. He is only 9 years old and at night he is awakened by shooting pains that afflict his little body. Dilgash lives in a shack, one of many you find everywhere around. There, the living conditions are difficult to describe, they have nothing, no water, no food, no toilets. It is difficult to breath due to the stench.

Elisa and Dilgash do not know each other. They both escaped with their families from their villages. At least they still have  a family. During the short time passed in the camps, we have listen to terrifying, abominable stories, stories that bring back to the last century . Stories of mass graves, violence against women and children. Villages burned by Isis.  Stories of men forced to choose whether to convert to Islam or die. In this case they will be  executed in front of their wives and children.

We are not sure if the two children will survive. Marino Andolina , the  pediatrician, who is always with us during the missions, has strong doubts because,  being a genetic illness, it is in a very advanced state.

What we want to do is try  to relieve  their pain for the remaining time.

Will we be able  to operate Dilgash at least on the hands and feet and bring him a wheelchair so that he can move?

The mission was particularly heavy. We  arrive, we watch and then we go back home.  They remain there to suffer unimaginable pains.

Back to Italy with a heavy heart . We cannot  abandon them. We will be back soon! Once you have met them, it is difficult to forget their eyes full of pain, hope and strength.

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