“We must deal with sounds of war and dead bodies, but still I want to be a positive part of beneficiaries stories,” says Salah, an aid worker from Mosul
Salah Hasan Khadeeda (30) is People in Need’s project coordinator in Iraq. Currently he is working on rehabilitation of Mosul, the former economic hub of Northern Iraq destroyed by fighting between government forces and ISIL. Salah, together with his team, ensures access to drinking water, improves the sanitation as well as raises awareness about hygiene in the most affected communities. “We as human beings are able to change the situation of many people with such small actions,” he says, as he describes his motivation to work as an aid worker. “It always makes me sad to hear that aid workers are targeted by armed forces, because many times they are the only hope for those in need,” he adds during World Humanitarian Day.
Why did you decide to become a humanitarian worker?
It all started with my studies in Taiwan where I volunteered helping people affected by natural disasters. Later, I was part of an international students volunteering group at my university and provided aid to people with disabilities in the southern part of Vietnam. After ISIL attacked Iraq, especially the Yazidi people of my religion, I saw with my own eyes how humanity can be humiliated and ignored. After this I decided to work in the sector and dedicate most of my time to people in need. I joined local charity groups and later national and international organizations. I strongly believe that we should devote our time to protect and promote the values of humanity and dignity without any race or ethnic preferences.
How long have you been working as an aid worker?
I started in 2009 as a volunteer for non-governmental organizations. I have been working for approximately three years. Apart from that I am still working as a teacher assistant at the University of Dohuk, because teaching is part of my professional career. I believe that quality university education can support the new Iraqi generation.
Why did you decide to become a member of the People in Need team in Iraq?
It is obvious from the name of the organization. It directly helps those in need and in transparent way. For me it means support for humanity and people who are suffering. Personally, I found in PIN the space for developing my knowledge about the humanitarian sector. PIN listens to my opinion, respects it and supports me.
Do you remember your first day at work as an aid worker? What surprised you?
I still remember my first day as an aid worker in PIN. We worked on rehabilitating schools, organized activities for children and distributed aid. I was impressed that even a small amount of aid can draw a smile and hope on the lips of kids or elders. It not just surprised and motivated me but also gives me the feeling that we as human beings are able to change the situation of many people with only small actions.
Beneficiaries can feel that humanity still exists
What are the biggest needs of beneficiaries at the moment?
The needs are changing with time. Actually it is access to drinking water, health, education and livelihood opportunities.
What kind of aid are you delivering to affected communities?
I am a WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) engineer. We always try to do our best to provide people with access to drinking water, hygienically clean sanitation facilities in schools, organize awareness activities or look for other needs within communities.
How do beneficiaries react to your presence in the area of operation?
They are always grateful for the support we give them, they feel that humanity still exists.
What are the main challenges you and your team are facing at work?
Main challenges are always connected with security. I personally feel challenged when many people are in need but we do not have enough resources to help everyone. Teamwork is the key point of any successful mission. Listening to colleagues’ opinions and feedback always enables me to make better decisions.
Do you remember the most powerful moment you experienced during your work in relation to beneficiaries?
Once, when I worked for International Rescue Committee as a WASH officer, we provided aid to people who fled Sinjar. My eyes were full of tears but I still tried hard to stand on my feet and help as much as I could. With PIN I will never ever forget the organizing of summer activities in schools. I had tough times during the implementation of this project but at the same time I was very happy because in the middle of the crisis we helped many beneficiaries. They gave me hope and power to forget all tiredness.
Daily you witness many stories of people who lost almost everything in their lives. How do you relax?
Every day I am hearing many different stories and I not only hear them but also see it and live with them. It always motivates me to help and support more; to be a part of these stories in a positive way.
Aid workers are often the only hope
You are working in Mosul. Is your work dangerous?
Working in Mosul is always dangerous. We must deal with remnants of war, non-organized military, the sound of weapons and dead bodies on the road. All this makes our work even more difficult.
Can you describe the most serious security situation you faced while at work?
The first months after the liberation of east Mosul and daily trips to these locations were very dangerous, because PIN was one of the first NGOs entering these areas and providing support there.
What do you like most at your current job?
I can apply my academic education and skills in my current job. It gives me the feeling that my studies are really helping me in my career. It satisfies me emotionally, that I can be helpful and part of the team who protects humanity and dignity in real life. Besides that it helps me to get new skills, develop my personality and to share my opinion with colleagues.
Are you sometimes hesitating about the meaning of your work?
What do you think about the fact that civilians or civilian facilities (hospitals, schools, houses…) are often the target of military or armed groups operations?
Damage to civilian facilities and infrastructure affects our humanitarian operation and also scales up the needs of beneficiaries. This is why during the conflict we always worry about those facilities. Any military operation should be done in a way to avoid damage.
What do you think about the fact that humanitarian workers are often the target of military or armed groups operations?
It always makes me sad to hear that aid workers are targeted by armed forces, because they are many times the only hope for those in need.
How do you see the future of Iraq?
The way forward is definitely through developing young leader capacities, improved infrastructure, opening roundtable discussions, decentralization of cities, and limiting corruption. More aid from international NGOs will help as well.
Petr Stefan, People in Need Communication Officer @petstf