More than thirty years of war and internal conflict in Iraq has left a legacy of despair. Millions of men and women are unable to care for themselves or their families because they have been severely disabled or have lost their main means of support. Despite the efforts of the government to provide social welfare programmes, many of these people do not get the support required to stay afloat
In Iraq today, the ICRC estimates that about one million women are left to take care of their families because their husbands have been killed, gone missing or have been arrested. Additionally, tens of thousands of men and women around the country are disabled to the point they are not able to support themselves or their families.
Basic services struggle in the country and really only take root in large population centres, but there is often little funding or services available to help people feed and clothe their families. Rural areas and regions of the country that remain unsecured are worse off, generally seeing no services from the government.
A number of organizations are working in Iraq to bolster the assistance from the government and try to give as many people as possible a chance for a better life. The ICRC tries to empower the most vulnerable bread-winners in regaining their ability to support themselves and their families, allowing some of the most needy to start their own small business and so generate a little income through what it calls the Micro-Economic Initiatives (MEI) programme.
There are some success stories, people rising from the ashes of lives that, at one point, seemed hopeless because of the realities of what 30 years of war has done to them and to the country.
But not everybody who is in desperate need can be helped. The local and national governments try to do what they can with the budget that is available, but it simply does not reach the vast majority of those in need. As Iraq remains a volatile nation, many of these people and their family members will continue to suffer and go without.
"The people feel that they are a burden to their family because they do not generate any income. So, we think it is better to provide some sort of MEI support, income-generating support to them, so they can generate some money for their livelihood," says Bal Bhujel, ICRC delegate for Micro Economic Initiatives in Iraq.
"They can have some money so they can buy food, they can send their children to school ... and they feel like they are a part of society. They feel a part of their family instead of a burden," Bhujel said.
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