Over the past three years an escalating conflict in Syria has forced almost three million people to seek safety in neighboring countries in the Middle East. In that time, more than two-hundred and fifty thousand people have made the tough journey over the border into the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq. As part of its partnership with UNHCR, and in an effort to provide comfort and support to those refugees, IKEA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the global furnishings company, is making a USD $2.5 million in-kind donation of bedroom products to UNHCR for refugees 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, at the IKEA Foundation.
36-year old Abdu Rahman Khalil was one of the first residents to line up to receive two mattresses, quilts and pillow covers, specially suitable for summer use in Iraq, where daytime temperature can exceed 45 degrees. Abdu, his wife Sita and their six children fled Syria’s civil war last September for the comparative safety of northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Now they live at the UNHCR-administered Arbat refugee camp near the city of Sulymaniah. Abdu says being able to sleep better will make life more comfortable for the whole family, “We needed these mattresses and blankets. The blankets are thin and good for the summer and the mattresses are very good quality.”
Whilst the IKEA Foundation, UNHCR’s largest private sector donor, has previously supported UNHCR’s work with Syrian refugees in both Jordan and Lebanon through in-kind donations, this is its first donation to UNHCR in Iraq, and it is a welcome one for 52-year old Halima Murad. She and her family, along with 3,000 others in the camp, were among more than 35,000 refugees who arrived in a mass influx from Syria last August. Since arriving in Sulymaniah, all six of her family members have lived in the cramped quarters of a single tent, at the mercy of Iraq’s extreme and harsh winters, summers and dust storms. In the winter temperatures can drop to zero and in the summer they soar to 45 degrees. Halima says,” We are happy to receive this mattress and quilt. We don’t have blankets for summer, only winter blankets and they are too heavy.”
Specifically this donation consists of 150,000 mattresses, quilts and bed linens and will be distributed to refugees at the Arbat camp, in the governate of Sulymaniah, over the next year. 50,000 sets have already arrived, and the rest are scheduled for delivery in staggered shipments until March 2015.
In agreement with IKEA Foundation, UNHCR will distribute 80,000 mattresses to internally placed people inside Iraq, who are have been forced out of their homes due to recent fighting between armed groups and government forces. On July 22, 1,866 mattresses were delivered to 311 families who have fled to the municipality of Al Hamdaniya, in Ninawah province in northern Iraq.