“Our strength is in our diversity as partners”

A displaced Iraqi boy picks up emergency supplies during an RRM distribution in Diwaniyah in August. ©UNICEF/Iraq/2015/Khuzaie

Since January 2014, millions of people in Iraq have been forced to flee their homes and move elsewhere in the country because of ongoing violence and insecurity. Of the 3.2 million people who are currently internally displaced, half are children; many have had to flee more than once as the conflict spreads.

The UNICEF and WFP — led Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) Consortium responds to emergency needs during large-scale population displacement by quickly delivering life-saving supplies to families who are on the move, in hard-to-reach areas, stuck at checkpoints, or stranded between front lines.

The consortium includes IOM, UNFPA, and nine implementing partners. Together, we’ve reached more than 4 million vulnerable people with emergency supplies during primary and secondary displacements.

One of the strengths of the RRM is in the diversity of the partner organizations — as seen here in the reflections of some of the staff involved.

Raad (left), 41, carries RRM supplies from a distribution centre with his two children in Alexandria in Babylon Governorate in July. ©UNICEF/Iraq/2015/Khuzaie

George Odisho, 27, is from Syria. He is a Programme Assistant with the World Food Programme (WFP).

What does your organization do that makes you the most proud?

WFP focuses on achieving food security for all vulnerable people in Iraq, so when we are informed that there are new displacements, it means there are tired and hungry people who need food as a priority. It is a really good feeling to assist them, without any delay.

Haider Al Ithawi, 37, is from Iraq. He is a Programme Policy Officer with WFP.

How does your experience in the field shape your day to day motivations?

My daily work has made me feel my responsibility as human being before my responsibility as a staff member, and gives me the power to continue my work proudly.
A truck with RRM kits for families displaced by conflict in Ramadi is unloaded at a distribution point in Amriyat Al Falluja in Anbar Governorate in May. ©UNICEF/Iraq/2015/Hussein

Firas Abdul-Khalik, 38, is an Iraqi citizen working as a Senior Programme Assistant for Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW).

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of planning and implementing the RRM?

The most challenging part of working in such an unpredictable crisis is identifying the people who are most in need, among an ocean of vulnerable people. It’s a humbling experience because the humanitarian situation in Iraq is so severe.

Rouwaida Majid, 28, is from Iraq. He is a Project Coordinator and Manager for IRW.

Q: How does your experience in the field shape your motivations?

During distributions of the Rapid Response Mechanism, our team conducts needs assessments and collects information in the distribution locations. Many of the people I meet are facing tragic circumstances, and it affects me personally — sometimes I feel hopeless. We are trying to provide what they need, but we can’t give them the most important thing — which is to return home. My experience motivates me to better understand and respond to their needs as much as I can.

Samantha Juliana is an IRW Programme Manager from Argentina.

Q: What is the most important message you want to share with people outside of Iraq?

Working with IRW in this emergency has made me understand what is important and what isn’t — and my day to day experiences in Iraq have made me more optimistic.
So, I ask others to remember: the people you see in the news are people like you or me. They have the same feelings and needs, and many are truly suffering. Get involved, be aware, and help in any way within your means.
A girl picks up emergency supplies during an RRM distribution in Diwaniyah in August. ©UNICEF/Iraq/2015/Khuzaie

Atheer Al Yaseen, 37, is from Iraq. He is an Emergency Officer at UNICEF.

Q: What is the most important piece of practical advise you would offer someone who is starting to work on the RRM?

The RRM is a unique programme because of the dual assessment and delivery aspects of distributions. Information sharing is one of the real values of the RRM. Consortium partners are able to exchange information among themselves, as well as engage with communities and local authorities, and later pass the relevant information to other UN agencies and to clusters to trigger follow-up assistance for displaced people on the move.

Mandie Alexander, 41, is from South Africa. She is an Emergency Specialist at UNICEF.

Q: How does your experience in the field shape your day to day motivations?

It makes me want to give something back, after being reminded not to take things for granted — education, a hot meal and running water, a family, safety and security.
You feel like you can never do enough. So get you up, you dust yourself off if you stumble or fall, and keep trying. There are children out there that need us. Giving up or doing half-baked work is simply not an option — we have the lives of the most vulnerable people at stake.
Hosam, 10 (centre), and Abdul Rahman, 12 (centre right), complete paperwork before going outside to pick up RRM kits at a distribution in Kirkuk. © UNICEF/Iraq/2015/Mackenzie

Elise Hannaford, 24, is from France and Britain. She is a Distribution Programme Manager at ACTED.

Q: What have you learned during your time working on the RRM?

The biggest lesson for me has been developing effective communication channels with local communities and other RRM partners to ensure that we are able to track and respond to newly displaced families in ‘real time,’ especially during massive population movements.

Q: What is the most important message you want to share with people outside of Iraq?

With such a rapidly evolving situation, large communities across Iraq are, and will continue to be, in need of assistance, including not just newly displaced families fleeing from areas of continued conflict, but also families returning to their homes.

Mohammed Muqdad Ali, 26, is from Iraq. He is a Distribution Officer with ACTED.

Q: How has your work changed during your time working for the RRM?

In the 13 months I’ve worked with the RRM, I have changed for the better. Each day I have more confidence and motivation to keep aiding people who have experienced a situation outside of their control. I’ve learned to always be ready, to be patient, how to work with my team, and through speaking with people who’ve lost loved ones or important things, to understand the situation of being displaced.
Supplies for distribution in RRM kits are prepared at a warehouse in Baghdad. ©UNICEF/Iraq/2015/Khuzaie

Rachid Moujaes, 30, is from Lebanon. He is a Cash and Distribution Manager at the Danish Refugee Council (DRC).

Q: How does your experience in the field shape your day to day motivations?

The living conditions and needs of the beneficiaries keep my focus on what’s essential in life, because I can see my daughter in the young children running with bare feet in the burning sand, hiding in the shade of their tents, not knowing the comfort we have back home… because I see my dad in the older men trying to take care of their family, and I can’t stand seeing them suffer. This motivates me to do as much as I can to support them.

Hariwan Amir Muhammad, 26, is from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. He is a Distribution Team Leader at DRC.

Q: How would you describe the situation in Iraq? How would you describe your team?

An unknown future, a lion with deep injuries. Iraq is becoming too much apart.
We have a strong team — I feel that each person is the right person to be working in that place. My experience day-to-day is always better than the day before.

Displaced families stuck at a checkpoint near the village of Dibis in Kirkuk pick up emergency supplies during an RRM distribution led by Save the Children. Photo: Courtesy Save the Children.

Vicky Skoula is from Greece. She is a Rapid Response Manager at Save the Children.

Q: What motivated you to get involved with your organization? What motivates you to stay involved?

I’m motivated to work in one of the most challenging and complex humanitarian environments that exists today, providing support for people when they are most vulnerable — when their houses and cities have been destroyed, where there is no market or school. It’s engaging work and an incredible experience.

Amjad Hameed, 56, is from Iraq. He is a field monitor for Save the Children.

Q: What is the most important message you want to share with people outside of Iraq?

People are more precious than anything.

Nourshan Hannan, 24, is from Syria. She is a Roving Distribution Coordinator with Save the Children.

Q: What is the most important piece of practical advice you would offer someone starting to work on the RRM?

Be dedicated, have patience, give and receive support from your colleagues. Appreciate diversity, embrace change, and see people for more than their nationality… And make sure to sleep whenever you can!
A displaced woman and her daughter waits next to a set of supplies distributed by the RRM Consortium in Amriyat Al Falluja in Anbar Governorate in May. ©UNICEF/Iraq/2015/Hussein

Jutta Goldbecker, 58, is from Germany. She is an Executive Assistant at RIRP.

Q: How would you describe the situation in Iraq? How would you describe your team?

Every day is a challenge, but my colleagues are motivated, flexible, and team oriented. They always demonstrate a willingness and a sense of responsibility to help others.
A displaced woman and her son girl carry emergency supplies during an RRM distribution in Diwaniyah on 17 August, 2015. ©UNICEF/Iraq/2015/Khuzaie

Arkan Mahir Shareef, 33, is from Iraq. He is a Distribution Team Leader for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

Q: What is the most important message you want to share with people outside of Iraq?

The needs have yet to be met. The response to the Iraq displacement crisis needs both the sufficient funds and expertise to better assist the people in need.

Diana Tonea, 30, is from Romania. She is an Emergency Coordinator for NRC.

Q: How do you engage with the communities where you work?

As RRM coordinator, I often visit our field activities during our distributions and engage with our beneficiaries. It is extremely important that we understand and listen actively to our beneficiaries, as most have been through traumatic experiences and we can learn how to improve our assistance and refer them for further services.

UNICEF’s joint leadership in the RRM Consortium is supported by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) and the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).


Profiles prepared by Chelsea Cowan, a Consultant with UNICEF in Iraq.

For direction donations to UNICEF Iraq: http://support.unicef.org/campaign/donate-children-iraq

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.