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Amid the crowds sheltering in a school, a displaced Iraqi girl dreams of home

By Mary Pereira Mendes

SINJAR, Iraq, 22 July 2014 – The Zarifa Usi school, where Marwa now lives, is a far cry from the Golden Dunes school, where she used to study.

For the past three weeks, 10-year-old Marwa has sheltered in Zarifa Usi school, in the town of Sinjar, with her parents, three brothers and two sisters. The only lesson she is learning in this school is to adapt to living among hundreds of other families who are crowded into the small classrooms and hallways.

Marwa and her family are among the thousands of people who have fled the violence that erupted in Talafar in mid-June, carrying little with them in their haste to escape. She managed to bring her doll and her writing book, which she displays, shyly.

© UNICEF Iraq/2014/Mendes
Marwa and her mother Haifaa, who have been displaced by violence in their town of Talafar, read a brochure together about staying healthy in the school in which they shelter.

Unlike her other sisters, Marwa loves math. She had just passed her examinations before turmoil forced her family to leave their home behind in search of safety.

Today, Marwa is reading the UNICEF leaflet on personal hygiene, along with the flyer on prevention and care of diarrhoea, to her mother, Haifaa. The pair bear an unmistakable resemblance to each other as they read the messages together, slowly. Sadness clouding her face, Marwa says, “There are many babies and small children here who are sick with fever. I wish I could be a doctor and heal them all.”

The Zarifa Usi school provides only temporary refuge. When the academic year resumes in September, Marwa’s and the other families will have to move out so that the local students can return to their studies.

Haifaa talks about moving to the calmer areas of the south, in search of stability for her children. However, moving would require taking further risks along another long journey in the scorching summer heat, and through insecure areas.

Asked about her future, Marwa replies, “I hope that I can go back to my home.” She emphasizes this wish by inking the phrase firmly in Arabic in her writing book. It is as if she tries to make her wish come true by recording the next steps of her young life in the book she has carried all the way from her home in Talafar.

UNICEF, with the support of local implementing partners, is providing urgently needed medical assistance to displaced communities by operating mobile clinics, facilitating social mobilization using Information, Education and Communication materials, and conducting dialogues on health, hygiene and sanitation.

With continued support from UNICEF and partners to ensure she has access to education, and with the love and care of her parents and community, Marwa can have a home again. 



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