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Kurdish Comeback in Iraq
The Kurds are an ethnic minority in the Middle East that occupy a region known as Kurdistan. An area that spans parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Though they were not given a country at the end of WWI, the Kurds have held on to their strong identity and still speak their own language. Caught in the middle of conflicts in both Iraq and Syria, they played an integral role in fighting back ISIS, seeing off 16 assaults on the city of Kirkuk. After several years of economic woes, there are finally some signs that northern Iraq, or Southern Kurdistan for the millions of Kurds that occupy the region, is beginning to recover. More importantly, the poorest Kurds have rebounded significantly. Here are five facts about the Kurdish comeback in Iraq.

5 Facts about the Kurdish Comeback in Iraq

  1. The U.S. government has provided more than $350 million in aid to Northern Iraq as a part of the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response initiative. Approximately $90 million of the aid is going directly to the most immediate needs and improving access to basic services, job access, small businesses and infrastructure. 
  2. The poverty rate fell to 5.5 percent in 2019. The most encouraging figure about the Kurdish comeback in Iraq might be the poverty rate. Iraq suffered a recession between 2014 and 2016 with Iraq’s GDP falling to 2.7 percent. Unemployment had risen to 25 percent by the end of 2014. The cause was falling oil prices and the height of the conflict with ISIS. Oil revenue makes up half of the country’s GDP and 90 percent of the government’s revenue. Adding to the economic strain, leaders were forced to cut new investments. Foreign oil companies like Russia’s Lukoil, Royal Dutch Shell and Italy’s ENI also withdrew investments. They saw Iran as a safer economic option than northern Iraq. All of this culminated in a 12.5 percent unemployment rate by 2016. 
  3. Kurdish interests were well represented in the 2018 election in Iraq. Overall voter participation was down, but the Kurdish voice was heard. They helped elect new Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi. The prime minister reciprocated by restoring budgetary support to the region, amounting to around 12 percent of the central governments budget. Regular federal reserve installments of $270 million per month helped stabilize the KRG oil sector.
  4. Oil production has rebounded, reaching 400,000 bl/d in January of 2019. Of course, there
    is always concern over the long term effects on climate change; however, over the short term, oil production
    has coincided with the low poverty rateThe U.S. played a role by brokering a deal that helped to restart production in the Kirkuk oil fields. Exports of petroleum to Europe may begin by 2022.
  5. Local investment increased while foreign investment decreased. According to local businessman Abdulla Gardi, this is typical during times of relative stabilityTotal investment increased to $3.67 billion in 2018 from 48 licensed investors. This is up from just $712 million in 2017. Most of the investment in 2018 was made by local investors who hope the KRG cabinet will prioritize a variety of different sectors. Local businessmen believe that, in turn, they can help the local Kurdish region become more prosperous.

There are many factors that lead to the Kurdish comeback in Iraq. Firstly, the end of the conflict with ISIS provided much needed yet tentative stability in the region. As a result, local investors felt more emboldened to invest in the oil industry. Politically, the election of Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi was a major win for the Kurdish economy and provided additional support to the oil industry to restart stalling production. Furthermore, U.S. aid is helping to improve lives for lower-income Kurds. More than $90 million of that aid is going to immediate needs including but not limited to shelter, healthcare services, food rations and provisions of water. There are reasons to be optimistic about the future in Kurdish Iraq.

Caleb Carr
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 Facts About Child Labor in Iraq

Iraq is one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid. It has been wracked by violence for decades. Children in Iraq are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in this violent situation. These 10 facts about child labor in Iraq demonstrate just how dangerous it can be.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Iraq

  1. More than 575,000 children worked instead of going to school in Iraq in 2016. This is an increase of more than 250,000 since 1990 when the First Gulf War began and the ongoing violence within Iraq started. Approximately 75 percent of Iraqi children age 5 to 14 attend school, but attendance rates are unevenly distributed. In governates that have experienced violence, up to 90 percent of children are out of school.
  2. Children are coerced into various kinds of work. Some work in agriculture or industries such as construction, factory work and brick making. Children also work in the service industry and are involved in domestic work and street work, such as selling goods and pushing carts. It is estimated that 2 percent of children age 12-14 spend 28 hours or more a week on housework. The same number of children perform unpaid work for someone other than an immediate family member. About 12 percent work for their family’s businesses.
  3. Many children in Iraq are coerced into the “worst forms of child labor” as identified by the International Labour Organization (ILO). These include recruitment into armed conflict, use in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, forced begging, domestic work as a result of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Forces on both sides of the current conflict in Iraq have used child soldiers, one of the worst forms of child labor. In 2018, ISIL was responsible for recruiting 39 children and detaining more than 900.
  4. The Popular Mobilization Forces, a militia officially endorsed by the Iraqi state, has reportedly trained more than 200 children to join the fight against ISIS. Human Rights Watch has documented 38 cases of children being recruited into forces affiliated with the PKK, some as young as 12. On the other side of the conflict, ISIS has consistently used children as suicide bombers and soldiers. ISIS recruits children as they are easiest to indoctrinate. Sometimes they will pay impoverished families hundreds of dollars a month to send their children to military training camps.
  5. Although the minimum age requirement to work in Iraq is 15, laws are not evenly enforced. Additionally, while forced labor and sexual exploitation of children are prohibited, there are no laws prohibiting human trafficking. Adding to the problem, children are only required to be in school for six years. This would typically end their education at age 12. This makes children age 12 to 15 especially at risk for exploitation since they are often out of school but cannot work legally.
  6. Problems such as poverty, lack of education and a shortage of economic opportunities increase child labor. Children living in rural areas are more likely to work than those living in cities due to the stark divide in poverty levels. About 39 percent of people living in rural areas in Iraq live in poverty while only 16 percent of urban dwellers are impoverished. Poverty is a driving factor behind child labor, as impoverished parents often need income from their children so the family can get by.
  7. Sexual exploitation is also one of the worst forms of child labor. In some parts of Iraq, girls are used as “gifts” to settle disputes between tribes. Additionally, growing poverty has increased the number of parents force girls into marriages. At least 5 percent of girls in Iraq are married before the age of 15. In regions controlled by ISIS, the terrorist group runs markets in which captured girls and women are sold as sex slaves. Yezidi women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation, facing capture and trafficking by ISIS fighters. Gender-based discrimination also contributes to the problem of the sexual exploitation of young girls.
  8. The worst forms of child labor can have physical and psychological effects on children. Because children are still developing, children risk stunted growth and physical atrophy as well as behavioral issues from performing physical labor. Performing hard labor in industries such as agriculture also involves working with dangerous equipment, carrying overly heavy loads and working with dangerous chemicals and pesticides. Being exposed to violence and cruelty as a young child can also result in psychological problems. Spending time at work instead of with their peers can also result in delayed social development, depression and isolation.
  9. Iraq has made efforts to get rid of child labor. It has opened 80 schools in West Mosul and created educational opportunities for Syrian refuges children. This has resulted in 60,000 more children attending school. Iraq has also created new policies meant to address child labor through education and social services. These include the creation of informal education programs, subsidies for law oncome families so that children do not have to work and shelters for human trafficking victims.
  10. Organizations such as UNICEF have been working with the Iraqi government to protect children and keep them in school. UNICEF is striving to expand access to schools and increase the quality of education within Iraq. The agency has provided e-learning for children in areas without schools and assisted the Iraqi government with the Accelerated Learning Programme for children who have missed school. UNICEF continues to work with Iraq to improve the quality of education within the country. Together, they are making revisions to curriculums and materials and extended training for teachers. Additionally, the organization calls for the strengthening of institutions meant to protect children. It wants to increase case management and other services meant to serve children and combat social norms that prevent children and their families from seeking help.

The ILO has declared that the long-term solution to child labor “lies in sustained economic growth leading to social progress, in particular, poverty alleviation and universal education.” This means that the U.S. has an opportunity to end child labor in Iraq through poverty-reducing measures. Currently, 80 percent of U.S. aid to Iraq goes to military assistance, with only 20 percent used to address humanitarian needs.

These 10 facts about child labor in Iraq demonstrate that an increase in aid focused on poverty-reduction and education could change the lives of thousands of children. By reducing poverty, there is a stronger chance of reducing child labor.

Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Solving the Water Crisis in Iraq
Iraq faces a deepening water crisis due to the consequences of war, upstream damming and decreased rainfall. Both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers have dropped to precariously low levels, negatively affecting public health and agriculture productivity. The water crisis in Iraq requires international cooperation and innovative solutions.

The Problem

Iraq’s water supply has reached dangerous levels due to a myriad of reasons, perpetuating a cycle of constant crisis. The war in Iraq has resulted in the destruction of infrastructure necessary for potable water, such as dams and treatment plants.

Furthermore, dams in Syria and Turkey have decreased water levels in both major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. Iraq, historically reliant on these two rivers, has suffered greatly as a result of the upstream dams. Maintaining the crisis is the fact that average precipitation has decreased to among its lowest recorded levels.

The Consequences

The water crisis in Iraq produces several key consequences for the country. Among them are public health concerns, decreased agricultural productivity and political unrest.

If Iraqis have access to water, it is often unsafe for consumption. In Basra, 120,000 residents required hospital treatment in just one year due to contaminated water. Additionally, according to Human Rights Watch, the Iraqi government often fails to warn citizens about the dangers and presence of poor water quality.

Iraq’s agriculture sector places additional stress on the already limited water supply. In fact, the water crisis in Iraq prompted the government to suspend rice farming entirely. One in five Iraqis is employed in the farming industry. The water crisis has left many without an income and has forced others to find work elsewhere. This affects not only the farmers but the thousands of Iraqis who rely on the food they produce.

Many Iraqis are dissatisfied with the government due to the water crisis. They believe that Iraq’s government should have done more to protect water security such as by building dams of their own. In a country racked by instability and violence, protests over the government’s mishandling of water have left nine dead, hundreds injured and many more detained in prison according to the Human Rights Watch.

The Solution

No easy solution for the water crisis in Iraq exists. However, progress will require international cooperation. An international dialogue will need to address the Syrian and Turkish dams that starve Iraqi portions of the Tigris and Euphrates. Additionally, Iraq is in desperate need of aid to build its own water infrastructure.

In July 2019, Turkey published a detailed report regarding its plan to assist Iraq through the crisis. Turkey plans to take three critical steps in order to alleviate the strain placed on its southern neighbor. They will allow more water to flow into Iraq from the Tigris and the Euphrates. To help rebuild infrastructure, Turkey will provide financial aid. Finally, they promise to train Iraqi engineers and technical personnel on wastewater treatment and hydrology.

The United Nations, through UNESCO, hopes to provide training and financial aid to Iraq as well. The organization believes updated irrigation systems will deliver relief to Iraq’s struggling farmers. UNESCO plans to target aid in the two regions most affected by the water crisis, the northern and southern tips of Iraq.

The water crisis in Iraq stands in the way of further development. The country has, unfortunately, endured many hardships in recent history, but international cooperation remains its best hope for stability and prosperity.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Pixabay

Justice for Iraqi Women

The status and protection of women remain a heated topic of discussion in international and national committees, particularly concerning justice for Iraqi women. Iraq‘s government is aware of the violations committed by its previous regime against certain civil community groups. As a result, Iraq’s government has strived to drastically change how they aid and support victimized and often impoverished groups. However, Iraq‘s strategy to reconcile these issues is unique. For example, China encourages its impoverished population to move to urbanized cities, and the United Kingdom encourages participation in its labor market. But Iraq seeks to acknowledge the voices of the victims.

In 2003, Iraq‘s government and the International Center for Transitional Justice partnered with the Human Rights Center of the University of California, Berkeley to create Iraqi Voices. Iraqi Voices is a report based on data collected from in-depth interviews and focus groups. This data represents different perspectives of the Iraqi population regarding transitional justice. There are seven main topics of focus represented in this report: past human rights abuses, justice and accountability, truth-seeking and remembrance, amnesty, vetting, reparations, and social reconstruction and reconciliation.

Hearing Women

Iraq is working to have women and girls meaningfully participate in all stages of decision making. Programs and organizations like the SEED Foundation have worked to ensure this justice for Iraqi women. In particular, the SEED Foundation works to empower and engage the voices of violence and trafficking victims in Iraq. As such, SEED Foundation leaders and activists encourage the meaningful participation of women in sustainable peace negotiations and conflict reconciliation. Through their efforts, the Iraqi Parliament now has a quota setting aside 25 percent of seats for women in provincial councils. By acknowledging these voices, the Iraqi government is helping seek justice for Iraqi women.

Moreover, Iraq has taken strides to bridge the gap between policymakers and victims when addressing the needs of local communities affected by ISIS. To do so, Iraq is considering partnering with or accepting assistance from other nations. While international policymakers seek justice for Iraqi victims, they fail to address the real concerns of affected communities. Instead, they often focus on prosecuting the perpetrators. But affected communities also have more immediate needs. Therefore, this partnership and assistance allow victims of affected communities to participate in prioritizing and creating appropriate policies. Efforts to ensure meaningful participation in Iraq‘s government thus bring about transitional justice. By addressing systemic failures, Iraq’s government brings justice to marginalized victims, including justice for Iraqi women.

Bringing Change

Ultimately, the changes implemented by the Iraqi government aid and empower impoverished and victimized groups, such as women. The inclusion of female voices in politics influences larger discussions affecting women and, as seen as Iraq, helps get justice for Iraqi women.

Jordan Melinda Washington
Photo: Pixabay

Impact of Community-Led Development
If the world hopes to succeed in accomplishing the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, people in power should listen to those who have successfully strengthened communities by putting the locals first. The Community-Led Development Movement (CLD Movement) advocates for allowing communities to decide their growth: “We believe that every human person has a fundamental right to voice in the decisions that affect their lives, and to equal and affordable access to the fundamental public services through which they can achieve their full potential.”

This statement sums up the way many people who work for the CLD movement or other NGOs feel towards community-first building. The group works towards the following goals: voice and agency for marginalized groups, adequate community finance, good local governance, quality public services and eventual self-resilience.

The following cases are examples of the impact of community-led development and how it has helped jumpstart new growth in communities.

Mercy Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan

The non-governmental organization (NGO) group Mercy Corps developed the research program, Learning for Effective Aid Policy and Practice (LEAPP) in Iraq and Afghanistan. The goal of LEAPP was to implement community-led projects that bring the community and its leaders together in a positive fashion. Through this action, Mercy Corps hoped to create stability and trust between the community and its leaders as well.

On top of these accomplishments, the program also invested in citizens which then led to increased incentives in them to continue to better their communities. Through educating communities on how the future could improve after working with NGOs and community leaders, the Afghan communities’ optimism increased from 14 percent to 65 percent. In fact, the level of satisfaction of new infrastructure ranged from mid-fifties to mid-seventies.

On top of these facts, the jobs increased by 26 percent, satisfication with job growth grew to 40 percent and acessibility to education increased by 43 percent. The LEAPP program in Afghanistan and Iraq strived to give assistance beyond military intervention — the common adi protocol of the past.

Various NGOs in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has seen some of the best operations of community-first building. Several NGOs have worked with low income communities across the country to bring the nation better food, nutrients, jobs and opportunities for education. With NGOs like Grameen Danone, BRAC and the Poverty Eradication Program, several communities have felt a rise in income, confidence and optimism. A more specific inquiry into NGOs focusing on Bangladesh’s communities follows the work of Concern Bangladesh.

Concern Bangladesh is a subsector of Concern Worldwide and in 2017, the NGO responded to Cyclone Mora as well as the influx of 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. The organization combatted poverty by improving livelihoods, increasing access to basic rights and giving entitlements to the lowest-income communities. Concern Bangladesh worked to improve slums, provide homes for squatters and integrated multisector services to over 10,000 people in 2017.

The group did a specific project on the Char region of Bangladesh between 2012 and 2016. The report claims that over 120,000 people directly or indirectly benefitted from the work done in the region by Concern Bangladesh. People in the Char community worked with Concern Bangladesh, which not only provided themselves with jobs, but also helped create jobs for others in the community.

A More Stable Future

After researching and reporting on the impact of community-led development in different countries around the world, John Conrood from the Huffington Post said, “women and men have a fundamental right to be the authors of their own development, and that right must start in the communities where they live and work.”

Through giving people power over their growth at the ground level, there is more motivation, influence and trust in the rest of the system that then leads to a more stable future for everyone involved.

Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

Girls Finishing Primary School
The importance of education in lifting a country out of extreme poverty has been well established. Specifically, girls’ education promotes gender equality, raises wages and results in smaller, healthier families. There is an unprecedented increase in girls finishing primary school, allowing them to get educated alongside their male peers.

Income Levels and How they Affect Girls Finishing Primary School

The percentage of girls who can afford to attend (and finish) primary school is directly tied to their country’s income level. Level 1 is extreme poverty; the family can barely afford to eat and must get water from wells. Level 2 is lower-middle income; the family can afford decent food and shoes. Level 3 is upper-middle income; the family can afford running water and basic appliances. Level 4 is high income; the family can afford a nice house and cars.

Level 4: Oman

One hundred percent of girls in Oman finish primary school. Primary school starts at age 6 and continues until age 18, and girls can go to one of 1,045 schools as of 2011. However, back in 1973, when Oman was a Level 1 country, there were only three primary schools with no girls attending them at all. Oman has experienced phenomenal advances in both poverty reduction and girls’ education.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said ascended the throne in 1970 and did not like what he saw. He vowed to improve life for the Omani people. This included, among many other things, opening more schools and allowing girls to attend them. Additionally, he made public school free, allowed private schools to exist and created a comprehensive kindergarten curriculum. With the availability of free education for girls, 100 percent of girls attend and complete primary school.

Level 3: Iraq

In Iraq, 58.8 percent of the nation’s girls finish primary school. This is down from 68 percent in 2004, but it is higher than the 0.722 percent that it was in 1974. At present, girls make up 44.8 percent of students in primary schools.

The Iraqi school system is far from ideal. Uneducated girls, when asked why they do not attend school, cite abusive teachers, poverty, the presence of boys and concerns about domestic and national safety. Those who do go to school endure dirty bathrooms, a lack of clean drinking water and the aforementioned abusive teachers. Despite this, there are enough girls finishing primary school in Iraq to keep the country out of extreme poverty in the next generation.

Level 2: Morocco

In Morocco, 94.7 percent of girls finish primary school. This is a stark increase from 22.9 percent in 1972. After King Mohammed the Sixth ascended the throne on July 30, 1999, he began placing more focus on the education of his people. His efforts have impacted girls more than boys, as shown by the fact that only 9 percent of girls have to repeat any grades in primary school, which is less than the 13 percent of boys who have to do so. Although this has done little to improve women’s reputations as workers thus far, it is still a victory for the country.

Level 1: Myanmar

In Myanmar, 89.3 percent of girls finish primary school. This number was only 30.8 percent in 1971 for a simple reason: extreme poverty. While schooling itself is technically free, parents still need to pay for uniforms and supplies, and boys are favored over girls in terms of whom parents will spend money on. Sometimes, girls as young as 4 years old are sent to schools in Buddhist monasteries, which means being separated from their families.

However, help is being provided by the international community. Educational Empowerment is an American organization dedicated to promoting educational equality in Southeast Asia. It develops and supports schools in Myanmar, publishes books, and gives microloans to mothers to help get their daughters into school. This has helped girls catch up to their male peers and finish primary school.

For girls, getting an education has historically not been an easy task. Between the cost of school attendance, the existence of extreme poverty and general gender inequality, girls often fall behind their male peers when it comes to receiving an education. However, thanks to new government rulings and help from nonprofit organizations, there are now more girls finishing primary school than ever before, and the number is set to rise even higher. In the near future, girls’ education will be on par with that of their male counterparts. This is important because educating girls leads to educated women, and educated women can help lift a country out of extreme poverty.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to IraqOver three million people are without safe, stable homes. Thousands are crowded in one place either because they have nowhere else to go or they are too frightened to move, and all they want is a chance to catch their breath. That is what life is like every single day for the people of Iraq.

In 2014, ISIS launched a siege. Ten or more Iraqi cities fell under ISIS control. Families fled to find safety in neighboring lands and people huddled together in an attempt to survive.

Such unity comes with a price. People in Iraq are suffering from a lack of food and shelter. If water is accessible, it may not be safe to drink. People all over the country are in need of medical assistance. Women and girls silently call out for protection and understanding, and there does not seem to be enough of anything to go around.

But despite these circumstances, organizations have successfully provided humanitarian aid to Iraq. Since 2003, the Internal Rescue Committee (IRC) has put forth efforts to relieve the burdens of the people. Legal aid is provided to those needing help by recovering identification documents lost to them. The IRC also gives cash donations. It is estimated that as much as $400 is granted to individual families. In addition to general education, the IRC offers parenting classes that actively discourage violence towards children. Mobile teams are put in place to protect and provide necessities to women and girls who are forced to live in refugee camps.

The IRC has been so successful in their quest to provide humanitarian aid to Iraq that they now operate in 13 different provinces. The organization receives funds from others who have a common concern for humanity and have set up their own fundraising campaigns to donate money to the cause. Rescue gifts are often received from outsiders, and volunteers devote their lives to helping the IRC deliver the bare necessities to the Iraqi people.

Another organization, the Iraq Foundation (IF), was successful in its efforts to teach 365 men and women how to read as well as teach them computer skills. The Mdaina Education Project generated the opportunity for income.

The IF also started a leadership program for women called Empowering Returnee Women. The goal of this project is to encourage women to be spokespersons for their communities and people in need. These women are offered a chance to learn skills in communication, advocacy and negotiation.

The IF is always open to donations. Funds acquired go towards civil development, establishing democracy and education on human rights.

When it comes to monetary donations to Iraq, Australia and the U.S. are leading the way. The Australian prime minister pledged $110 million towards humanitarian aid to Iraq in April 2017. This brings the total amount of aid provided by Australia to $180 million. The funding provides food, medical treatment and clean drinking water.

In July, the United States became the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Iraq. Announcing a promise to send an additional $119 million, the total amount donated rose to $1.4 billion. More food and clean water will be made accessible to refugees, as well as protection and shelter. These funds will also go to support three field hospitals that administer medical treatment to those in need.

There is still work to be done. Cities and homes need rebuilding. Communities need fostering. Men, women and children need simple, basic necessities. But as humanitarians around the world succeed in answering the call to aid, the amount of people suffering significantly dwindles.

– Tamara Luckett

Photo: Flickr

Iraq, a country attempting to rebuild itself after decades of war, has implemented various projects to help stabilize the country. The five development projects in Iraq that are among the forefront include a decrease in the number of citizens diagnosed with tuberculosis, a crisis response program, a water improvement project, oil and gas development projects and a reconstruction project that spans various Iraqi cities.

To address the many health concerns in Iraq, the country partnered with UNDP, who created the Global Fund TB Grant. The grant provided emergency cell phones for tuberculosis patients to ensure they can reach centers to avoid treatment interruptions that threaten to increase drug resistance. Since the implementation of the grant and enhanced TB testing, 36,800 cases of TB were successfully treated, resulting in a 92 percent treatment success rate in 2014, and the detection and treatment of 25,900 new smear-positive TB cases.

The second of the development projects in Iraq was the creation of the Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme (ICRRP), another project supported by the UNDP. The ICRRP was created to address the large humanitarian crisis in the country.

More than 10 million people were affected by development gaps, and more than 3.3 million had to flee their homes. This crisis led the UNDP and Iraq to create the ICRRP to prevent human rights violations, reduce the risk of gender-based violence and develop cohesion among diverse communities. Using a gender mainstreaming approach, the program also aims to address the practical and strategic needs of affected women. The ICRRP has helped create jobs for 14,000 people, gave 94,000 enhanced livelihoods in eight governorates and gave 5,000 Syrian refugees and displaced residents legal support.

On the energy resource side, the Rumaila field, the world’s fourth-largest oilfield, has helped increase the number of producing wells by 50 percent. The field has produced more than three billion barrels since 2010 and in December 2016 was producing 1.45 million barrels a day, generating over $200 billion. In addition, the Rumaila oilfield project has helped create numerous jobs and generated more revenue and energy for Iraqi residents.

One of the most significant development projects in Iraq is the Bismayah construction project, which aims to house half a million people within four years. The $8 billion project faced a six-month setback after the project’s land was lost to Islamist militants and the obstacles of providing clean water and electricity to the housing units.

This is due to the fact that Iraq is still trying to make up for the years lost to war, so they rely on foreign investments in electricity, as well as refineries, transport, telecoms and health. The clean water supply obstacle is due to the fact that the water has not been delivered to the city’s purification plant, making the available rooms unlivable. Despite the drawbacks, the project has surged on.

To benefit the Iraqi people apartments are available for a down payment of just $6,300, which is equal 10 percent of the total cost of the smallest 100 square meter homes. The monthly rent is less than the minimum government wage, making them extremely affordable.

To address the ongoing water concerns, Australian firm Protechnique has helped start the $80 million Basra Project. The project aims to provide engineering, procurement and construction services for the project’s transmission reservoir and transmission pump station. The pumping station will also concentrate on chlorine building, blending chambers, electrical substation, generator building and more.

The project is expected to be completed by December 2018 and will operate with neighboring pumping and circulation stations to pump water from a desalination plant to Basra.

As Iraq continues to rebuild itself, the country will see an increase in jobs, revenue, housing, clean water and other resources. The above development projects in Iraq are the country’s first stepping stones on a long road to recovery.

– Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr

Rebuilding in West MosulIt has been nine months since Iraqi forces have taken back the city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and East Mosul has begun to come back to life. However, while men and women enjoy the pleasures of their new freedom, West Mosul is still recovering just a short two miles away.

Up until ISIL forces had a foothold in Mosul, al-Qaida terrorized the city with kidnappings and killings. Then in 2014, Mosul was taken by ISIL forces and declared a caliphate. Beginning in late 2016, Iraqi forces began to work to take back the city. It took nine long months of lives lost and neighborhoods destroyed to finally declare victory over ISIL on both sides of Mosul on July 9th, 2017. However, East Mosul was liberated much easier than West Mosul across the Tigris River, which was left devastated and has not yet been able to recover.

Obvious evidence of the fighting still lingers. The main bridges connecting East to West Mosul, for example, have been replaced by floating bridges since U.S. airstrikes destroyed them in order to stop ISIL forces from escaping. Furthermore, the once picturesque skyline has been fractured into pieces; shattered rooftops and buildings scorched black are now common throughout the city. Electricity and running water are still not available in West Mosul and many residents have attempted to dig wells in order to repair their damaged homes.

Since the devastation, many public services have gone by the wayside, one of the most important being schools. While some schooling is available in refugee camps for internally displaced Iraqis, some children have decided to instead stay home and help their families, like Ahmed Abdelsatter. His family lost their home in the fighting and the 17-year-old has now become the breadwinner, selling ice cream in a refugee camp. Along with the fact that many children are preoccupied with family issues, the makeshift schools lack teachers, supplies and books, making education even more different to access.

Thankfully, just last month, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that the first major delivery of aid made it to West Mosul. ICRC has aimed to reach 64,000 citizens of West Mosul that have been severely impacted by the fighting.

While this brings promise, others from East Mosul have suggested fixing the roads from the two parts of the city in order for the people to begin “rebuilding themselves.” These are just the early stages of what will be a long fight in rebuilding the entire city of Mosul. Hopefully, with the help of both international and local organizations, West Mosul’s skyline will transform back to its pre-2014 days, and Mosul can once again be whole.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in IraqWhile the people of Iraq certainly underwent extreme oppression under the former totalitarian leader Saddam Hussein, the United States’ stated mission to spread democracy by overthrowing Hussein and invading the country in 2003 has not proven to be a success by many standards.

While it has indisputably achieved important strategic military objectives, former President George W. Bush’s decision to do this has also cost U.S. taxpayers over $2 trillion thus far, resulted in approximately half a million civilian and combat casualties, devastated the quality of life for millions of Iraqi citizens and unfortunately, it does not appear to be a conflict that will be ending anytime soon.

Perhaps the two most damaging results of this conflict for Iraqi society have been the decline of education and widespread health problems and mental illness, both of which are byproducts of the violence taking place across the nation.

Fortunately, organizations and individuals across the globe have recognized these problems and have become actively involved determining how to help people in Iraq. Listed below are these two problems, the methods in which certain humanitarian organizations are seeking to combat them and also ways in which the average citizen can help to be a part of the solution.

Education
Education is necessary for the stability of any society, and, generally speaking, provides children with a safe and healthy socialization process, which is why it is important to consider the fact that roughly 3.5 million children in Iraq attend school infrequently, if at all.

From 2011 to 2013, the British Council and members of the European Union supported a project called the Support to Improving the Quality of Education in Iraq program, which was intended to improve educational conditions in Iraq. The project cost approximately $10 million and implemented programs designed to provide resources, improve teaching skills and develop high-quality curriculums. Overall, the project was a success, allowing 800,000 students of all ages in southern and central Iraq access to a quality education.

Another organization that fights for the improvement of education in Iraq, among other things, is the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Similarly to the British Council’s approach, the IRC is concerned with finding a long-term solution when trying to solve the problem of how to help people in Iraq get an education. They seek to do so by providing well-trained teachers, safe learning environments and reducing the problem of overcrowded schools. You can donate to their cause here.

Perhaps the largest organization that is making the largest strides for the improvement of Iraqi education is UNICEF. In 2016 alone, the organization helped to allow 682,000 children access to an education and provided over 520,000 children with school supplies such as backpacks and stationery. They have also created new ways of how to help people in Iraq by providing cash to families who are particularly vulnerable, offering summer classes to students who have fallen behind and even operating mobile schools in various parts of the nation. You can donate to their efforts here.

Healthcare
In a country where there an estimated 11 million people are speculated to need some form of humanitarian aid, there is no organization more noticeably devoted to providing adequate healthcare to Iraqi citizens in need than Doctors Without Borders (DWB). The organization currently has ongoing projects in almost the entire country with the exception of the southeastern region and works in five major cities or villages including Baghdad, the nation’s capital.

With many medical facilities and resources destroyed, medical care in Iraq is expensive and hard to come by. Millions of citizens have been displaced from their homes and others find themselves miles away from the nearest medical facility. While their mission is not over, DWB has effectively countered this negativity with tremendous success, providing healthcare and first aid to millions of people across the country, putting their own lives on the line to do so.

Currently, their main agenda is providing aid to those affected by the ongoing crisis in Mosul, the country’s second largest city. On the western side of the city, an estimated 60,000 civilians are trapped by the ongoing fighting, which has consistently produced large numbers of civilian casualties and severe displacement. To help solve this problem of displacement, DWB has created displacement camps in different areas of the country, camps who have seen dramatic influxes of people in the recent months.

In June 2017, DWB opened a project in western Mosul and reported a high number of patients needing life-saving treatments. In their June 2017 update, Jonathan Henry, the Emergency Coordinator for the DWB project in west Mosul, stated that “this influx of wounded patients is yet another example of the horrific suffering and indiscriminate violence suffered by civilians, including women and children, throughout the battle for Mosul.” You can donate to DWB here.

Above all, as an American, when asking the question of how to help people in Iraq, the quickest, easiest and best thing you can do is reach out to your congressional leaders and express to them a desire to increase the U.S. foreign aid budget. In doing so, you help to ensure that the wealthiest nation in the world will do more than it currently is to bring these atrocities to an end and allow the country and its neighboring regions to one day see an era of development and prosperity.

Hunter Mcferrin

Photo: Google