Iraqi children are pleading directly to President Donald Trump for help as the deadline to provide portions of over $1 billion in aid to religious minorities victimized by the Islamic State terror group expires.
Photos obtained by Fox News reportedly show children at camps in Mt. Sinjar and Dohuk holding signs with messages like, "God Bless USA" and "Don't forget us President Trump."
International human rights lawyer Nina Shea said she believes that the images will "strike the conscience to see the real faces of innocent children who need to be rescued."
"When images of the Yazidis fleeing Mt. Sinjar were made public, it galvanized the previous administration to go back with troops, food drops and other aid after our military had already pulled out of Iraq. We saw something similar with President Trump's actions after the chemical attacks in Syria," she added.
Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, a total of $1.3 billion in humanitarian aid had been promised for Christians, Yazidis and persecuted minorities, but none of the money has reportedly reached the refugees. The act had reportedly expired last week at the end of the fiscal year.
According to Shea, the funds have not been released due to a "religion blind" policy, which prevents money from being sent to religious groups despite the statutory mandate to assist these communities. However, an exception was reportedly made for the Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar, who received $32 million in aid.
Officials for USAID have contended that the assertions that the U.S. is not providing support to vulnerable communities in Iraq are false.
"Since FY 2014, the U.S. government has provided nearly $1.7 billion to address the humanitarian needs of Iraqis both inside Iraq and in the region, including vulnerable members of minority communities, like the Yazidis and Christians," an official from the agency said.
The official further noted the aid also includes an additional $264 million that was announced on Sept. 20, as well as $115 million for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Funding Facility for Stabilization. A significant amount of the aid money was provided to minority communities, the official said, adding that the humanitarian assistance is based on need over religious affiliation.
Iraq's Christian population has reportedly fallen from about 1.4 million in 2003 to about 275,000 in late 2016.
The exodus began when the U.S. invaded Iraq, resulting in a wave of sectarian violence against Christian churches, particularly in the Nineveh Plains region, a centuries-old homeland for the country's Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian Christians.
More Christians fled the region when ISIS conquered northern Iraq in 2014 and launched an organized massacre against the church as well as against other minority religions like Yazidis.
Some Christians have managed to flee to places like Europe and Lebanon, but others who remain in Iraq simply wandered the region avoiding U.N.-operated refugee camps for fear that they would be targeted by Muslim refugees in the camps.