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Iraq: mine victim takes a small step to a big new future

13-08-2009 Feature

A new ICRC assistance programme in Iraq is helping war victims to become financially independent. Beneficiaries include people like Mohammad, who lost a limb in a mine blast in northern Iraq back in 1991.


Mohammed Salman Khaled    
    Mohammed Salman Khaled was born in 1962. He is married and has eight children aged between one and 14. He grew up in a mountain village near the Iraqi-Turkish border where he enjoyed mountain climbing and hunting.

In the mid-1970s, the volatile security situation in that area led Mohammed and his family to move to Zakho district, in Dohuk governorate, far from the mountains he loved so muc h. He took various jobs in order to help support his family.

In 1991 fighting in the area obliged Mohammed's family to flee Zakho for Dashtani, a camp for displaced persons near the Turkish border, where they lived in a tent. Early one morning Mohammed joined a relative to look for firewood in the surrounding hills – but their outing ended in disaster.

Helping disabled to support their families

  The ICRC's micro-economic initiatives (MEI) programme aims to assist heads of households disabled due to the conflict to improve their ability to earn a living.

  The beneficiaries receive material assistance (not cash), such as the initial stock for a small shop; this is expected to bring faster results.

  In helping disabled people support their families, the programme helps breadwinners regain self-confidence and restores their dignity.

  Implementation is currently taking place in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, by the ICRC sub-delegation in Erbil and ICRC office in Dohuk.    
    " All I remember is that, in a matter of seconds, I found myself lying on the ground covered with blood, with my right leg severed. I had stepped on a landmine and then I blacked out, " says Mohammed, his voice still marked with sorrow and pain.

 Bleak future  

That same night, Mohammed's father passed away. " I was devastated. I was in hospital and because of my c ondition; I couldn't even attend my father's funeral. My whole life had changed within seconds, " he remembers. In 1992, Mohammed received an artificial leg from the orthopaedic centre in Mosul and began his new life as a handicapped person, facing a bleak future.

Despite his condition, Mohammed worked part time as a night guard in a commercial centre, but that proved too difficult. " I had to stand or walk for hours on end, which was very hard for me, so I decided to quit it early this year, " he says. " I used to dream of turning one of the rooms in my house into a small shop to sell snacks and basic household items. " But he had no money to start the business.

In 2009 things changed. Mohammed visited the ICRC’s orthopaedic centre in Erbil and was registered there. And in April he was visited by the ICRC team running the recently-launched socio-economic reintegration programme. This became a turning point in his life.

“I mentioned the business venture I had had in mind for years,” he says. “We looked at it together and they decided to give me a chance. The ICRC provided the initial stock for the shop to help me get started.”

This small start has made a big difference in Mohammad’s life.

“Now, I run my own business! With the money I make, I renew the stock, buy additional items and support my family. I feel useful again " , he adds, a smile wiping away the pain of so many years’ suffering.