Iraq: Helping Families Overcome the Legacies of War

The Problem: © Terry Allen

In 2003, the United States violated the Charter of the United Nations and invaded Iraq. US and NATO troops killed more than one million Iraqis over the next nine years and devastated the country.

The US military officially ended its mission in Iraq on December 15, 2011. Thousands of US troops left—and Iraqis have been left with the legacies of the war.

Millions are bereaved, injured, traumatized and lacking essential health care, food and clean water. More than 2.7 million people have been violently displaced.

The war lives on most brutally in the children of Haweeja, a small district in northeastern Iraq. Reportedly used as a munitions dump by the US military, families in Haweeja now find their children suffering from unprecedented rates of birth defects and cancer.

Haweeja exemplifies the US legacy in Iraq, one that will continue to impact women, their families and communities for generations.

The Solution:

The US may have declared the war in Iraq to be over. But we won’t abandon our sisters. We will stand with mothers to care for children and raise safe and healthy families. MADRE is working in partnership with the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) to meet the needs of families trying to rebuild their lives in Haweejah.

When OWFI called a community meeting in Haweeja to discuss the health crisis, an overwhelming 500 people attended. With MADRE’s assistance, OWFI will provide humanitarian aid, medical assistance and counseling to families whose children are afflicted by birth defects, pediatric cancers and other health threats.

The food, water and medical aid provided by OWFI and MADRE will help families cope with the crises of war, poverty and compromised health. Counseling will help families support one another as they raise children with lifelong disabilities.

The Results:

  • Families whose livelihoods were destroyed by war will receive vital humanitarian aid, such as food and clean water.
  • Medical equipment and supplies will help families care for children born with birth defects and other health problems. Children with physical disabilities will be provided with wheelchairs, braces and other mobility aids.
  • Families raising children with disabilities will learn to support each other through peer counseling sessions, where they can share their challenges and experiences. These sessions will also help to counter discrimination against people living with disabilities.