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Iraq: Widows support families despite rising violence

23-12-2013 News Release 13/235

Baghdad (ICRC) – With the security situation deteriorating, Iraqi women who have lost their husbands in connection with the armed conflicts of recent decades are struggling hard to earn a living. Because they face increasing hardship, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is stepping up its support for them.

There are currently over a million Iraqi women in Iraq who bear the responsibility of supporting their families because their husbands were killed, arrested, disabled by war injuries, or went missing. The women are among those hardest hit by years of armed conflict. With violence against civilians on the increase, their needs are set to grow.

"Widows in Iraq are often ill-equipped to overcome the significant challenges they face all by themselves," said Patrick Youssef, head of the ICRC delegation in Iraq. "With just a little help from us, however, they are able to take matters into their own hands, rebuild their lives and see to it that their children have enough to eat."

The ICRC seeks out the people who most need its help, including in particular women finding themselves with little or no means when their husbands die. In 2013, the ICRC helped more than 50,000 people in Iraq, including more than 1,500 women responsible for supporting their families, find a suitable way of earning a living.

"When my husband died I found myself alone. I was very tired, and the burden was unbearable. Everything was difficult for me, because my kids were small. They needed school. They needed clothes," said Huda Muttashar Naji, a mother of three. Financial support from the ICRC enabled her to open a beauty salon and hairdressing business in her own home in one of Baghdad’s poorest neighbourhoods. "Now I find myself stronger. My beauty salon is good, thank God, and I can cover all the expenses of the household."

The ICRC has been in Iraq since 1980, working to ease the effects of conflict and other violence. Its assistance activities in the country focus, among other things, on helping poor farmers boost production, providing displaced people with emergency aid, and making grants to women heading households and to disabled people so they can start small businesses, generate income and live in greater dignity.

For further information, please contact:
Pawel Krzysiek, ICRC Baghdad, tel: +964 790 191 6927