Iraq: A Complex Humanitarian Emergency
Photo credit: Rachel Unkovic, International Rescue Committee
The number of displaced persons in Iraq is estimated to be at least 2.8 million, or one out of every 10 Iraqis. This staggering number represents those displaced before and after the 2003 U.S. led invasion. Most recently, the vast majority of Iraqis who have fled the Islamic State (ISIL) remain concentrated in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).
U.N agencies and humanitarian organizations continue to increase their assistance. Interventions include distribution of emergency food assistance and relief items, shelter support, hygiene awareness campaigns, and sanitation infrastructure improvements.
In November, Brent Stenberg and I traveled to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to provide on-site training and support for the management staff of a humanitarian organization with a long history in this region. This organization has faithfully provided critical services to many of the half million internally displaced persons (IDPs). While some of the staff are international citizens deployed to help, Winter 2015 approximately 60% of their staff are, themselves, displaced persons from Iraq.
Our work with the staff included training and consultation on the unique stresses they encounter in their work. In this group, the stresses of work are inseparable from the stresses and trauma in their personal lives. As we learned from the deeply moving personal narratives shared with us, many of the staff and their families have been displaced multiple times, until it has become their permanent way of life. Maintaining resilience under such circumstances is difficult. For most, the future is murky. They long for a stable home where they can safely live and work with their families. Yet they cannot picture when and where that will happen.
As I think back now, I see their faces and hear their voices. The map of Iraq for me is personal, alive, and specific. I pray for a future with meaning and purpose for those we met and for so many millions searching for a corner of the world where they can live in peace.
From the President
December is a time for reflection, as the year draws to a close and we anticipate 2016. To those who have supported the Institute and helped us provide care to aid workers and emergency responders, I sincerely thank you. You have helped make our 15th year of operation our most successful one. You've encouraged us to innovate, take bigger risks, and grow.
While I'm happy with all that's been accomplished, I'm growing more troubled by the increase in violence and trauma worldwide. Like swells in the ocean, it feels like the wave of despair and suffering has again risen to new heights this year. As the number of victims grows, so does the number of responders who help communities recover from humanitarian emergencies. So, our job of offering them psychological support also grows bigger, far beyond what we imagined when we began in 2001. I wish there was no need for what we do, but that's not the case. The need is growing, and we're determined to find new and better ways to promote the personal and team resilience and trauma recovery of responders everywhere. They need and deserve our help.
Thanks for partnering with us in this work. - Jim Guy