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Iraq: ICRC to expand initiative to alleviate hardship and restore dignity

14-03-2011 News Release 11/19

Geneva/Baghdad (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has announced plans to expand its micro-grant initiative in Iraq following a trial period, which saw hundreds of disadvantaged Iraqis start their own businesses and begin earning much-needed income.

Also see our news footage: Iraq's  forgotten citizens  

Decades of armed conflict, ongoing violence and high unemployment have left millions of men and women in Iraq struggling to make ends meet and care for their families. Basic services such as health care, the supply of clean drinking water and sanitation remain largely inaccessible outside large population centres. In many places, very little funding and few services are available to help needy people.

"People who are displaced, out-of-work or disabled find it particularly hard to get by, while the elderly and women heading households are also among those worst affected," said Dusan Vukotic, the head of a micro-economic grant programme run by the ICRC. "Despite certain improvements in many parts of Iraq and the authorities' efforts to enhance basic services, disadvantaged people struggle to feed their families and continue to depend, to some extent, on outside help. Small income-generating activities, like running a shop or working as a hairdresser, started through micro grants can ease their hardship and restore their hope."

An estimated one million women are shouldering the burden of caring for their families alone because their husbands have been killed or arrested, or have gone missing. In addition, tens of thousands of men and women around the country have been disabled by war injuries. "People with disabilities find it hard to find work, not only because of their physical impairment but also because of social stigma," said Mr Vukotic. "Women have fewer employment opportunities than men."

In an effort to help needy Iraqis get back on their feet and create ways to support themselves and their families, the ICRC launched its micro-grant initiative in 2008. The programme has so far made over 800 grants enabling almost 5,000 people in Baghdad, Ninewa, Kirkuk, Diyala, Basra-Missan, Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniya governorates to set up businesses. "This has done more than just help disadvantaged people generate much-needed income. It has also helped restore some of their dignity and improve their chances of leading a better life," said Mr Vukotic.

Hassan Majid Rasoul, a roadside salesman who was given a small grant to buy a motor cart, happily recalls his story. "After I got this motorbike, my financial situation improved. I earn between 40,000 and 50,000 Iraqi dinars (about 42 US dollars) a week. There is enough money for the family," he said. "The change is that now I can go out and sell things by myself, not like before when I just had to sit with my children. I can sell chickens and afterwards take my grandchildren out on the bike for a ride, just for fun."

The ICRC is looking forward to expanding the grant programme in 2011 so that even more people will benefit, particularly in the areas hardest hit by violence.

For further information, please contact:
Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18
Layal Horanieh, ICRC Iraq, tel: +964 790 191 6927
Graziella Leite Piccolo, ICRC Iraq, tel: +962 777 460 051