An early arrival

Thirteen year old Mona is washing dishes out front of her tent. Living with her mother, Harzia, aunt and grandmother, Sabria, the tent is a largely female space.

Except there is Ali. At four months old, he does not take up much space in these close quarters, but his presence is notable.

He is nestled into one corner of the tent so he cannot roll away while the women in his life try to manage the endless dust that coats the inside of the tent.

Sabria, Ali’s grandmother, explains the haphazard birth of one of the camp’s youngest residents.

A young girl in a blue sweater smiles as she stands beside a tent.
UNICEF SparksMona, 13, helps take care of the family’s meagre belongings in Hasansham camp after being displaced.

“We’re from the village of Khazer. We had to leave because it was so cold, and Hariza was about to give birth. There weren’t many medical facilities so we tried to come to the camp.

“Hariza went into labour as we were on the road. We were all scared. Poor Hariza, we had almost reached the camp, so there were a lot of people around and everyone was watching.

“She gave birth on the side of the road, and there was nothing to cut the cord with. There was little I could do except pray that she would be okay.”

Hariza purses her lips at the memory. With no man in the house to help arrange transportation or housing, she was left to the kindness of strangers to deliver her child into the world, and her to the medical facilities at Khazer camp.

Now that the family is settled in the camp, Ali has been vaccinated by a mobile health team from Ninewa Governorate’s Department of Health in the camp, supported by UNICEF. But displacement has left him and his sister Mona among the more than five million children across Iraq in need of humanitarian assistance.


Jennifer Sparks is a communications consultant with UNICEF Iraq and has previously covered humanitarian operations across the Middle East and North Africa.


Read more about UNICEF’s work in Iraq


The battle to reclaim Mosul from the so-called Islamic State began in October and the Iraqi government has declared victory over its opponents. The human toll from the conflict has been staggering. As of the beginning of June more than 790,000 people have been displaced from the city; around half of them are children. Despite the conflict winding down, population movement and displacement is likely to continue, and UNICEF is working around the clock to support families.




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