Dif­fi­cult times ob­scure Canada’s role in Iraq

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - LEE BERTHI­AUME

ERBIL, IRAQ — A baby’s cry pierces the din as dozens of peo­ple wait to see a doc­tor or nurse at what’s surely one of the busiest health clin­ics in the Mid­dle East: in­side a sprawl­ing refugee camp that’s home to 18,000 dis­placed men, women and chil­dren.

The clinic’s fu­ture is as un­clear as that of its clien­tele.

The fa­cil­ity is just one of sev­eral projects Canada is sup­port­ing in Iraq as part of its ef­forts to help those af­fected by the war against the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant — help those on the front lines say is des­per­ately needed.

“It’s very im­por­tant for the peo­ple here that they have this clinic and they can get ser­vices here,” Azad Murad, a nurse with the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM), said through a trans­la­tor.

“And it’s re­ally good that the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment … helps the clinic, be­cause it is a great help for the peo­ple here.”

But as wel­come as Canada’s sup­port is, the UN and other aid agen­cies say more is needed from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity — now and go­ing for­ward.

“One of the things we are ner­vous about in­side the humanitarian com­mu­nity is once (ISIL) is gone in the next cou­ple of months, the world is go­ing to turn its back,” said Lisa Grande, the UN’s humanitarian chief in Iraq.

“They’re go­ing to look at Syria and Ye­men and other places that have a cri­sis. But we know the humanitarian cri­sis in Iraq is not go­ing to be over when the fight­ing is.”

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment pledged last year to pro­vide $840 mil­lion over three years in humanitarian aid to Iraq, Syria, Jor­dan and Le­banon as part of its revamped mis­sion against ISIL.

On Mon­day, In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Marie-Claude Bibeau re­vealed the lat­est de­tails, an­nounc­ing that $52 mil­lion would be di­rected to dif­fer­ent NGOs work­ing with refugees in Iraq.

The funds will be di­rected to three key ar­eas: health care, clean wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion, and pro­vid­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal help and coun­selling for those af­fected by con­flict, es­pe­cially women and chil­dren.

An­other $187.5 mil­lion will go to­ward sim­i­lar projects in Syria, Jor­dan and Le­banon.

Speak­ing from Erbil af­ter tour­ing the nearby Ashti refugee camp, Bibeau said she saw and heard first-hand how Iraqis are strug­gling with the trau­mas as­so­ci­ated with war.

That’s why Canada has put a spe­cial em­pha­sis on psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port, she said.

“They’ve been through hor­ri­ble things, and they were telling me how this sup­port from our humanitarian part­ners is im­por­tant for them,” Bibeau said.

RYAN REMIORZ, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Cana­dian Forces Lt.-Col. Richard Morin, right, speaks to Nor­we­gian sur­geons work­ing with Canada at the Cana­dian mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal in Erbil, Iraq.

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