Meeting The Needs of Iraq’s Children

June 6, 2008

The key to the future of any nation is it’s children. Iraq is no different in that respect. Just like here in the United States, the children of Iraq will be instrumental in ensuring that their nation continues to progress and thrive, making it a better place for their children. That fact isn’t lost on our Troops, as they continue to interact with Iraqis.

On May 31st at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex Civil Military Operations Center at Camp Stryker, Iraq, more than 100 Iraqi families showed up to receive items that will help to ensure that the needs of their children are met. Items such as diapers, formula and cereal were given to the families to meet that need.

“Rakkasan” Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team distributed 2 packages of disposable diapers, 2 cans of powdered formula and 2 cans of cereal mix for each child who was under the age of 3 years old. All told, more than 180 children received assistance that day. The initiative to reach out to Iraqi women and their children began in February, following a series of meetings with professional Iraqi women and from a series of visits to women in different areas. Their needs were revealed and the Troops were more than willing to ensure that their needs were met.

“We’ve had several trips to a local clinic, and that’s how we came up with the idea,” said Army Captain Martrell Gamble, the brigade’s women’s initiatives officer in charge. “A lot of the patients were asking us for milk and diapers.”

1,000 of each item was purchased with bulk funds. Flyers were distributed in Arabic and posted in the Radwaniyah area, in order to inform the residents about the handout. Soldiers were surprised when families began arriving to see that some babies were wearing fabric fragments improvised into diapers, while others wore nothing at all. While providing formula, diapers and cereal for the children won’t resolve all of the problems that the Iraqi families face, it is another way to assist them while they begin the task of rebuilding their country and becoming self sufficient once again.

“I think it’s a big help for the people … because they said it’s expensive and they cannot afford it,” said Parween Mohammed, bilingual bicultural advisor with the Rakkasans. She went on to say that it makes her happy to see the gratitude on the faces of the parents who received the items.

“We don’t have anything,” said Rabia Ahmen, a mother of 5 children whose family depends on unreliable day labor for it’s income. “I am so happy for this. God bless and protect you all.”

Another mother, Hamdia Ibrahim and her husband are raising eight children between the ages of 1 through 23. No one in their family currently is working. To ensure the children are fed, she breast-feeds the younger children, since she can’t afford formula. The formula she received will offer a brief reprieve. Later this summer, Gamble is planning a distribution at the Mahmudiyah Civil Military Operations Center and at Patrol Base Dragon, which will hopefully be able to reach even more Iraqi families who are in need.

“At the end of the day, we may not be able to change the entire culture. But if we’re able to help a handful of families here and there, that’s a lasting impression,” said Army 1st Lt. Heather Wilson of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade.

By reaching out to the Iraqi women through the women’s initiative programs, the goal is that Troops can better understand the women of Iraq. By speaking with them and working with them, they can obtain ideas to help these women achieve their personal and professional goals. Another way that’s being done is that the Rakkasans are working on approval for a sewing center in one of the buildings located on the Ready Made Clothing Company compound at Mahmudiyah. If approved, this center would provide training for the women and generate long-term employment for Iraqi women in the area.

This is fantasic and a way to enable the Iraqi women to help themselves and their families. I’m constantly amazed at the kindness and compassion of our Troops and their unending desire to help the people of Iraq.



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