Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Iraqis have witnessed youth stepping up to help those in need across the country. As one of the most youthful countries in the world, this support is vital to vulnerable populations in Iraq during such a critical time.
In July and August, as part of a series of initiatives developed by the UNDP Iraq’s youth groups, supported by the Government of Denmark and in partnership with non-governmental organization Wasel Tasel, communities in Anbar, Diyala, and Ninewa governorates received various necessities including water, clothing, hygiene packages, and face masks.
During one initiative, youth from Anbar provided 100 households in Rutba with 20 liters of potable water from 29 July to 02 August. Potable water is hard to come by in the district of Rutba, located in western Anbar Governorate. The city relies solely on well water, which is typically not suitable for drinking.
“We all felt conflicting emotions. I felt sad that the neighborhood, and the city in general, lacks potable water. It is such a simple basic need. On the other hand, I was happy that we are taking an action to support these families. I wanted to be part of this initiative to support my community and spotlight this city and its needs,” says Mahmoud, youth group member.
The families supported through the youth initiative live below the poverty line, in one of the most disadvantaged areas of Rutba.
“We met one woman who, with tears in her eyes, told us her eight-month-old baby would finally have milk made with potable water this week,” shares Mahmoud.
In a separate July initiative, clothing was purchased and delivered to vulnerable children in Saqlawiyah, Anbar, a city where many people have been declared missing following prolonged conflict. Many families in the city are without an income, meaning that important celebrations such as Eid are often small and lacking key supplies, including gifts for children. Over 100 families were provided with clothing that was purchased as part of the initiative.
Yasmin, a youth group member, recounts entering a household where a mother and her four children are isolating to protect themselves from the virus. “The mother burst into tears. She said she hadn’t slept in one week, because she couldn’t stop thinking about how to make Eid special for her children. She said she couldn’t thank us enough.”
In August, initiatives in Diyala saw 500 hygiene kits distributed from 17 to 19 August in Qatoon, Al-Khan, and Al Karnabat. Similarly, in Ninewa on 18 August, 300 hygiene kits were distributed in Al-Shifaa and public areas were sterilized.
In Anbar, 1000 face masks were distributed from 16 to 20 August, in Qaim, Ramadi, Haditha, and Ameria.
Abdulrahman is a 22-year old who works in the street selling tea and coffee in Ramadi, Anbar Governorate. “The coronavirus pandemic and imposed lockdown stopped my business. Now that the curfew has lifted, I can go back to work and feed my family. I would like to see all people wearing masks to protect themselves and their families so that we can keep working.”
Further youth group initiatives are planned, and will continue demonstrating the dedication, hope, and empathy of young people in Iraq. Youth are the future and based on the actions of Iraq’s younger generations during the coronavirus crisis, the future is bright.