The Blog

Humanitarians Helping to Unite Nations

Last summer the workloads of every single man and woman in our team almost doubled overnight as a huge stream of desperate families fled from the terrorists of Islamic State. That stream became a river that is still flowing to this day.

For Iraq's 3.1million Internally Displaced People today (19 August) is likely to be exactly the same as the last 350 or so since they were forced to flee their homes following the Islamic State invasion.

The vast majority of these poor men, women and children will be living in grim refugee camps. Freezing cold in winter and currently unbearably hot. The day will be spent simply trying to stay cool, fed, fit and healthy. No easy task without plumbing, running water, regular electricity, and all the other things most of us take for granted.

So the IDPs could be forgiven for not knowing today is a significant one in the United Nations' calendar. It's World Humanitarian Day, designated so by the General Assembly to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

It's described as an opportunity to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work and humanitarians around the globe.

My charity, the AMAR International Charitable Foundation, has teams working with the IDPs across Iraq. They are all Iraqi and they are a brilliant talented mix of top medical professionals and amazingly dedicated volunteers.

To a man - and woman - they are first and foremost humanitarians. They are dedicated to improving the lives of their fellow human beings and are determined to alleviate suffering wherever they find it.

Last summer the workloads of every single man and woman in our team almost doubled overnight as a huge stream of desperate families fled from the terrorists of Islamic State. That stream became a river that is still flowing to this day.

It's difficult to single out individuals from our 1500 Iraqi staff, they are all such wonderful people, but for World Humanitarian Day I'd like to highlight the work of some of these true professionals.

Sisters Eman Abd Jabbar Mohieldeen and Zainab Abd Jabbar Mohieldeen are both highly skilled doctors and they are also both refugees from Mosul.

They were forced from their family home and fled to Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Within weeks they were working for AMAR, desperate to help their fellow refugees.

Eman is a specialist in Obstetrics and her sister is an expert in emergency medicine. Despite the constant worry of wondering what is happening to their relatives and friends still trapped in Mosul, the doctors are now totally dedicated to helping thousands of their fellow IDPs living near Baharka Camp in Erbil.

Their greatest wish is for Islamic State to be defeated and for them to return to Mosul but as true Humanitarians they have put their own feelings to one side and told me they are determined to "make a difference."

Eman and Zainab and the rest of AMAR's highly-skilled medical teams are led by Dr Ali Muthanna. He is the backbone of the operation and works tirelessly to ensure the charity provides the standards of medical care that has been officially approved by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Ali was himself a refugee, forced to flee to across the border into Iran after attacks by Saddam Hussein's henchmen two decades ago. The years spent living in the grim conditions of the refugee camps made him determined to help others.

His medical skills of course meant he could do that from the very beginning, but even after he returned home to Iraq his humanitarian work continued with AMAR and now he travels the length and the breadth of the country inspiring, supervising and enthusing his teams.

AMAR's wonderful humanitarians come not just from the ranks of the medically qualified. Our unique Women Health Volunteer (WHV) scheme is impacting on communities all over Iraq.

The WHVs come from within those communities. Our medical professionals train them in basic health care, to support pregnant women and new mums, and also to advise on family planning. Once that training is complete the women "adopt" around 50 families each.

In areas where there is little access to health care, these women play a vital role in early diagnosis and preventing sickness and disease.

One of our newest WHV recruits is Roaa. A Christian, she fled from Qarakosh when the Islamic State invaded in August last year. Despite this horrendous personal experience, Roaa is another who has turned a negative into a positive.

Despite having a new-born son to look after, she now helps her fellow IDPs every day. She tells me that sometimes she feels great frustration because she cannot help them more but she and her WHV sisters across Iraq - all unpaid - are doing marvellous work improving the lives of thousands of people.

Today in AMAR's London office we will take a few moments to celebrate these superb humanitarians and all the other selfless individuals who are doing their best to improve a very troubled world.