Bringing light to the hearts of children in northern Iraq

The Yomiuri Shimbun

By Yumiko Kurashige / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent DEBAGA CAMP, Iraq — “I can see properly!”

Debaga camp near Erbil in northern Iraq is home to displaced people who have escaped the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group. On Oct. 5, staff members of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) distributed new glasses in a variety of colors, provided by Fuji Optical Co. to children in the camp. Most of the children have suffered trauma, and they often look glum. However, the moment they put on the glasses, their eyes lit up as they broke into smiles.

Muhammed Abdulawahid, 11, fled from the outskirts of Mosul, which was the largest stronghold of ISIL, with his family two years ago. He had never worn glasses before, and he was overjoyed: “I never had my eyesight checked before today, so I didn’t know my eyes were bad. Now I can see letters and pictures clearly. I feel like a doctor!”

Faeza Muhammed, 18, had been wearing glasses with warped frames for a long time. She, too, was happy: “I’m so glad that I got such good new glasses.”

The IOM and Fuji Optical joined hands and began their drive to provide vision-related aid in Iraq in March 2016. So far, they have provided glasses to over 2,000 children in refugee camps and similar places. The children who live in the camps fled from their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs.

The area also lacks adequate medical facilities. Many children have been living as refugees in this harsh environment for over two years. Even after ISIL is driven out of a town or village, rebuilding it often drags on for a long time.

According to Mamiko Kuwaki, 30, an IOM program support officer in Iraq, the camps focus first of all on providing items that are essential for daily survival, such as water and food. Most of the time, aid for children with bad eyesight is insufficient. Mentioning the children’s faces these days, Kuwaki appreciated the glasses program, saying: “The glasses are also useful for helping the children follow along with classes in the camp schools. They provide some light in the hearts of children who live in very difficult circumstances, having lost their homes and families. This is the kind of aid that will help them build a future.”

Shayma Sabah, 6, who received a pair of glasses half a year ago, said: “I can read my schoolbooks without any problems now. My dream is to become an eye doctor!”

Ala Abdula, 11, also said: “I can see the letters on the blackboard clearly now and it’s much easier to study. When I grow up, I want to be a schoolteacher.”

Iraqi children wearing glasses from Japan can now see prospects for the future.Speech

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