by Major Cedric Hills
THE Salvation Army closed its Kuwait-based Iraq programme more than a year ago but it still has a tangible interest in the affairs of Iraq. Life today for our friends and others in Iraq is far from easy.
Families who flee the worst of the fighting find themselves in overcrowded camps or in places where the food and clean water are, at best, scarce.
With most non-Iraqi groups having left the country, the local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are struggling to cope. However, The Salvation Army has found a way to have a continuing influence on the poor and oppressed in Iraq, through its links with one NGO in particular and also through the provision of training.
As part of its continuing interest, The Salvation Army’s International Emergency Services unit maintains an Iraq Desk Officer whose primary role is to liaise with a specific NGO that operates out of three Iraq cities (Baghdad, Kut and Basrah) in a dangerous and often very frustrating attempt to help the large number of people who desperately need assistance.
|Training Iraqi NGOs in Kuwait|
|A health education class for women and children living in rural areas|
The organisation consists almost exclusively of former members of our Iraqi staff.
We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with this organisation and we continue to support and mentor this emerging group.
There has been some success over the past year working in association with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), particularly in the area of health education and treatment and through the installation of a large-volume water-pumping station and reverse osmosis plant which provides potable water to a town of 30,000 people.
We are providing intensive training in humanitarian response for some 40 emerging Iraqi NGOs. This training, involving our own international trainers who began the process recently in Kuwait, will continue in Basrah (inside Iraq) and will be organised and carried out by our Iraqi partner organisation.
We are also jointly operating a programme to distribute a range of basic, but essential, food and non-food items to 3,000 Iraqi families, three-quarters of whom have been displaced from their homes and are currently living in appalling conditions.
We, through our partner organisation, would like to do much more but funding is a major hurdle. There are thousands of Iraqi NGOs that have emerged since 2003 but the vast majority are not yet trusted by the world’s donors. In many instances this distrust is well founded, but we know it is not so in the case of our friends and earlier colleagues, which is why we will continue to mentor them and help them to raise funds.
We believe this is the best way to find long-term solutions to the problems of Iraq – supporting Iraqis as they deal with their own communities.