It was only 10 am when I arrived at Garmawa camp, 35km south-west of the city of Dohuk, but the sun was shining bright and the temperature was already very hot. As we wiped the sweat off our brows, my colleague explained the camp’s apt name: “In Kurdish, ‘garm’ means hot and ‘awa’ means water.”
Garmawa is a new camp being set up to accommodate up to 10,000 of the approximately 200,000 Internally Displaced Persons, who fled into Dohuk Governorate because of the violence spreading across central and northern Iraq.
At the time of my visit, 78 families or about 390 individuals were residing in the camp. As I walked amongst the tents, I spotted a little boy with Down Syndrome sitting on his mother’s lap in a shaded area in front of their tent. The little boy smiled ear to ear, so I knelt down and smiled back. His mother explained through gestures that he was 8-months-old, and that he is always happy. A girl in a pink dress, with beautiful gold earrings and a smile to match, emerged from the tent. “Ana Lucy” (I am Lucy) I told her as I pointed to myself; she replied, “Ana Reham.”
I spent the remainder of the morning in another part of Garmawa camp, where an ambulance had arrived to vaccinate all under 5 children from polio, measles, mumps and rubella. A large crowd gathered outside the ambulance, a bustling scene under the midday sun. Children were crying, mothers looked anxious and curious onlookers milled about.
UNICEF Iraq had been advocating for the inclusion of displaced children in the ongoing immunization campaign, which was originally planned only for Syrian refugee camps. The presence of the health workers and ambulance showed that our efforts were successful and that displaced girls and boys would not miss out on these important vaccines.
I saw Reham with her brother and parents queuing for vaccines outside the ambulance. I asked the mother if I could take a photo of her son getting his polio vaccine and she agreed. After taking a snap, I took the family aside and asked them about their recent experiences. Reham’s parents told me how the family fled Mosul quickly, without packing, and shared their uncertainty about the future. I looked down to Reham and as I often do with little children, I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up. She replied smiling and without hesitation: “a journalist”, and gestured for me to lend her my notebook and pen.
She immediately began asking me questions: “How old are you? Where are you from? Why are you here?” I smiled and replied as she wrote my answers in the notebook. I handed her my camera and said, “You should probably take my picture as well, since you’ve just interviewed me!” Reham agreed and she enthusiastically took several snapshots of me standing in front of her.
As she handed back my camera, I asked her, “Why do you want to be a journalist?” and she replied “I want to travel to other countries and hear people’s stories.”
As I left, I hugged Reham and wished her the very best of luck. I hope to see her name in the byline of a major media outlet one day.
At Garmawa camp, UNICEF will work with partners to install child friendly spaces which will offer informal educational activities and provide psychosocial support to children like Reham, whose lives have been uprooted and interrupted by conflict.
Lucille Knight is a UNICEF Communications for Development Specialist based in Iraq.