Babil, Iraq—Exciting news coming out of Babil, Iraq this week! Our Soccer Salam team just completed the delivery of food baskets and other essentials to 60 families now living in Babil, most of whom were originally displaced from Ramadi. another step forward in Soccer Salam’s continued efforts to reach the many Iraqis displaced by violence and left untouched by humanitarian aid this summer.
The needs of these displaced people, especially the needs of displaced Iraqi children go beyond food, water and shelter. They need a chance to play and forget the traumas of war. Soccer Salam addresses these psychological needs, supplying soccer balls for these children in addition to vital provisions of aid.
Soccer Salam’s on the ground partner, the Iraq Health Aid Organization (IHAO), was instrumental in the Babil distribution. As an NGO based in Baghdad, Iraq and operated by Iraqis, IHAO aims to promote the long-term health and stability of the country from within. Hala al-Sarraf, our fearless colleague and IHAO director, spearheaded this most recent distribution. Here is Hala’s direct dispatch from Babil:
From: Hala al-Sarraf
I am pleased to report the distribution of food baskets to families now in Babil, originally displaced from Ramadi. The event was attended by the Head of the Committee for Displaced people of the Provisional Council of Babil. Mr. Kassim al-Fatlawi, who is an IHAO member and our focal point in Babil, worked to collect the IDP families’ names and data. All names were checked against food ration coupons and IDs of each family who received a basket.
This mission is different from others though. A member of IHAO team participating in the distribution of goods today, Mr. Ahmed al-Kaissy, hails from Kirkuk. A Sunni Iraqi, Mr. Ahmed is now working together with his Shia IHAO colleague Mr. Kassim to help these IDPs from Anbar.
Some of the IDPs told us their stories.
Among the accounts were heard those we heard were from IDPs fleeing al-Qaim, which is currently under the control of ISIS. One Sunni man described the fate of his tribe, many of whom had died at the hands of ISIS only two days prior. Despite this tragedy, we find that the Sunni IDP families were welcomed into this Shia community, who helped arrange for this distribution, giving these families the aid they desperately needed.
A positive sign in the shadow of despair. More photos to follow.
Hala’s dispatch sheds light on just how significant the impact of Soccer Salam is and why it is vital for the future of Iraq. The sheer number of displaced Iraqis, over 3.6 million according to recent estimates by the UN, exhibits that the need for aid is more dire than ever. Additionally, large international relief efforts lack the funds to reach all of these vulnerable populations. There is an evident gap between the amount of aid needed to assist all of those who are displaced and how much is actually provided. Projects like Soccer Salam, which partner with Iraqi organizations who deliberately seek out hard-to-reach groups, often untouched by aid, are imperative for the relief effort as a whole.
Soccer Salam offers more than just lifesaving relief to its beneficiaries. It gives Iraqi volunteers, from diverse backgrounds, the opportunity to work together, and in the process to build bridges of understanding over divisive issues. Many times Iraq is portrayed as a country chronically divided along religious, ethnic and cultural lines. Sunni-Shia, Arab-Kurd, etc. Babil is an exceptional case. Volunteers and aid workers have come together to help their fellow Iraqis; Shia communities have opened their arms to Sunni populations displaced by violence, all acting in contrast to stereotypes. Religious divides did not prevent volunteers from different regions and religious sects from coming together to solve a common issue that all Iraqis face—the humanitarian crisis fueled by the conflict with ISIS.
In a larger sense, Babil exemplifies how efforts to assist those in need right now can have a lasting impact in the future. Peace building does not happen overnight. It requires rigorous participation by the people, the government and international society. The road ahead will be a difficult one in the wake of the displacement and destruction caused by ISIS; however, Soccer Salam’s work is a step in the right direction. By peacefully bringing together various segments of Iraqi society to help those in need, Soccer Salam is actively participating in building a lasting peace in Iraq.
Soccer Salam hopes to be a part in laying the foundation for a more robust and prosperous Iraq. With your help, our partners can reach those still in need of aid and invest in the future of Iraq—its children. Join our team and support Soccer Salam’s campaign to raise money for displaced Iraqi children in need.