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THE banner pictured below is – in many ways – unremarkable. At about two metres square it’s not particularly big and its design is nothing earth-shattering. And yet this banner is hugely remarkable. It’s remarkable because it was prepared by members of ISHO (Iraqi Salvation Humanitarian Organisation), the group that was set up to take over the work when The Salvation Army’s emergency relief team left the country. It shows that, for the first time, the members of the group feel safe in publicly linking their organisation with The Salvation Army.
The banner features many examples of the group’s work alongside the names of three organisations – TSA (The Salvation Army), ISHO and IOM (International Organisation for Migration) – and highlights their partnership. IOM is the leading inter-governmental organisation dealing with migration. It works in tandem with the United Nations with a particular focus on migrant populations, both refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The Internally Displaced Persons and Returnees Programme overseen by IOM provides IDP/vulnerable group monitoring activities and emergency humanitarian assistance, as well as addressing the humanitarian needs of IDPs and the communities in which they reside through Community Assistance Projects.
While IOM has been instrumental in funding much of ISHO’s work, The Salvation Army continues to provide support and mentorship through its Iraq Desk at International Headquarters.
The banner is, in its own way, a sign of hope for Iraq. It shows that despite many setbacks, life is improving. The Iraq Special issue of All the World (July–September 2007) included information about the new organisation that had been formed to continue the work begun in Iraq by The Salvation Army but, at the time, security issues meant that it would be too dangerous to give the group’s name.
Now the people in Iraq feel happy to make the link public and more than that, says Gordon Lewis (Iraq Desk Officer, International Headquarters), ‘they are proud to be linked with The Salvation Army’. The use of the word ‘salvation’ in ISHO’s name was insisted upon by its Iraqi members as a sign of respect to The Salvation Army.
Now they feel the time is right and the situation is safe enough for people to be aware of how an Iraqi organisation has links to a movement that works in 117 countries.
The techniques and training given by Salvation Army workers have been taken on board by the new organisation and adapted as necessary but much of what they do – providing help to those who need it most and working alongside people to provide what they most need – has all the hallmarks of Salvation Army emergency relief work.
In recent years, infant and mother mortality rates have increased in Iraq. There are many reasons for this but one of the main ones is that as the bigger cities became increasingly dangerous people moved to rural areas where medical resources were at a minimum.
In many places there was a traditional birth attendant present when a child was born – midwives are rare in rural areas – but most of these attendants were poorly trained or even not trained at all.
ISHO is working with local health authorities to provide basic medical training for birth attendants so they are able to keep mothers and babies safe and healthy before and during labour. Some of the women are seen here learning how to check a mother’s blood pressure.
Major Cedric Hills and Captain Elizabeth Hayward from The Salvation Army’s International Emergency Services are shown here conducting capacity development training for Iraqi non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
While Saddam Hussein was in charge of Iraq there were no NGOs. This caused obvious difficulties in the post-Saddam era as local people who wanted to help their countrymen had no experience and many of the first NGOs were politically motivated and poorly run – with obvious difficulties in obtaining funding. The Salvation Army provided training for ISHO staff and later to other NGOs. Today, ISHO members are using the materials they were taught with to provide training for other NGOs.
As part of its work in Iraq, The Salvation Army’s UK International Development Office came up with the ‘Two by Two’ scheme. This involved providing two sheep and two lambs to very poor widows. Intensive sheep-rearing training was also provided, along with a supply of feed and materials to build sheep-pens. The idea was that after a certain amount of time, the lambs would be given to another worthy recipient who could then set up her own sheep-rearing project.
The concept was taken on by ISHO (often now with a greater initial provision of animals) and adapted to suit local situations. For instance, in some communities the sheep are provided to newly arrived internally displaced people (IDPs) who will rear the lambs before passing them on to the host community. In this way, some of the burden for taking in new people is relieved and relationships are strengthened.
One of the areas that is still causing concern in Iraq is its lack of a ‘professional’ class. After the fall of Saddam, academics and medics in particular were targeted by extremists. Many were killed and countless others fled the country. Sadly, this has led to major problems in providing decent medical care and education.
In Thi Kar, a school for nurses was neglected and overcrowded. ISHO saw this training facility as hugely important to the region’s health services and so sought funding to refurbish the school and provide room for more students. Funding from IOM?was added to money raised locally by ISHO and the newly refurbished school now has room for an extra 120 students to study in excellent conditions.
Humanitarian distribution was a vital part of The Salvation Army’s relief effort in Iraq and it remains an important aspect of ISHO’s work.
What is not often reported is that relief aid distribution in Iraq can be easier to organise than in other parts of the world. Under Saddam many people had to use ration cards to obtain food so it is often a relatively simple task to register people for relief aid as it seems a natural thing to do! This is just one example of how local knowledge and understanding are vital for this type of scheme.
Water provision forms an important part of ISHO’s programme. Schemes range from simple well-boring to large-scale water distribution projects, as can be seen in this photo.
The number of IDPs in various parts of Iraq makes the provision of clean water all the more important. People develop some immunity to bugs in their local water source but if they are forced to move to another region this immunity will not protect them from diseases that don’t affect local people. The water schemes undertaken by ISHO seek to provide clean, safe water in ways that are convenient for the communities they seek to help.
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© 2013 The Salvation Army