Dohuk: Scores of Yazidis, mainly children, who fled as jihadists overran their villages in northern Iraq are now sheltering in an abandoned construction site on the outskirts of Dohuk city.
While they have found safety in Iraq`s autonomous Kurdish region, the members of the Yazidi religious minority have little to celebrate, having lost loved ones, homes and their belongings.
Four-year-old Alia, who arrived with five relatives, sobs with hunger on her mother Hazika Ahmed`s knees.
Alia, her three siblings, mother and grandfather now sleep on mattresses provided by local residents, surviving on just one meal a day and with no medical care.
The children`s father Nuweil Qassem Murad, a shepherd, was kidnapped by the jihadist Islamic State(IS) group as its fighters advanced in Iraq`s Nineveh province from August 3, targeting minority groups and forcing many to flee.
"We would have been better off if we`d died in our homes," says Hazika, 25.
She tries to keep calm, but half way through her interview with AFP, she too bursts into tears.
"The children saw it all on Mount Sinjar. They saw the killing, the gunfire," Hazika says of the place where thousands of people were trapped by the jihadists for more than 10 days.
"We had to walk for hours as we fled upwards onto the mountain. We had no food, no water to give them.
"Now we`re here, and though we are safer, we`ve lost everything -- our homes, our clothes, our money, our gold, everything," Hazika says, lips quivering.
"The only reason we are still alive is by God`s grace. But no one has done anything for us here.
"The children want their father," Hazika says. "Every day, things get harder. What is going to happen to us when the cold winter months arrive?"
At the construction site, families are sleeping on the first two floors of an unfinished five-storey building.
They cook food donated to them by local Kurdish tribes, but the food is not enough for their growing numbers, they say.
There are no toilets, no walls, and in order to reach the first floor, people must climb a shaky wooden ladder.
Hazika`s five-year-old son Lawi`s eyes are swollen, probably from the sand and dust constantly blowing through their makeshift home.