Hello Iraq

What's it like to work for a humanitarian organisation behind the scenes? As he begins a new assignment in Iraq, Eben shares his experience...

Following my assignment with MSF in Bangladesh (read my blog posts here) I spent two months at home to rest and reconnect with my loved ones.

Today it has been just over a month since my arrival in Baghdad, Iraq. On the day of my arrival, in early June, the temperature was 47 degrees Celsius! I was promptly assured by the friendly MSF driver, who fetched me from the airport, that this is not  summer yet.

This is my third assignment with MSF and I will be here for nine months.

Getting our teams where they need to be

I have a rather unique position here as the Head of the Intersectional Administrative Liaison Office. I am supported by a team of two very experienced and motivated Iraqi colleagues, Ahmed and Sanaa.

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Our main responsibility is to liaise between MSF and the Iraqi authorities for the issuing of visas to our international fieldworker colleagues. In addition to this we also arrange with the relevant authorities to receive road clearances for the transport of our personnel and supplies.

Whether it's wound care, physiotherapy, psychological support or prosethetics the multidisciplinary MSF team here does it all

As a lawyer myself, I am also intermediary between MSF and our locally retained lawyer to ensure we are compliant with the laws and regulations of the host country.

Being part of the administrative support teams of MSF, I make it a priority to visit, whenever possible, our medical facilities while on assignment.

Visiting our medical teams

If your days are consumed by administrative challenges, it can sometimes be easy to overlook or forget why we work in a host country. I guard against this by visiting our medical facilities.

Without fail this has reinforced to me the real reasons for MSF’s presence in a country. Witnessing the impact that our medical teams have on our beneficiaries remains a very humbling experience.

This was true again when I recently visited one of the MSF medical projects.

The scars of war run deep in this country, which is home to amazingly warm and friendly people

My housemates in the MSF staff house are working at the Baghdad Medical Rehabilitation Centre (BMRC) project. This is a unique, one-of-a-kind MSF project in Iraq. Being a rehabilitation centre, patients can end up spending months either as in-patients or out-patients of this facility.

MSF head nurse, Alida, invited me to visit the project and gave me a guided tour of the facility. This project focuses on post-operative and rehabilitative care for patients. Patients recovering from surgery, wounds suffered in the armed conflict and victims of road accidents all receive care here.

Whether it is wound care, physiotherapy, psychological support or the supply of prosthetics or medications, the multidisciplinary MSF team here does it all.

Our team adds to the quality of life of their patients, helping them increase their mobility of limbs and aiding in their recovery, all while the patient remains the central focus.

Your generous donations makes this all possible – thank you.

Making it all worthwhile

I was overwhelmed by the warm welcome I received from all our Iraqi colleagues.

As Alida walked me through the facility I could not help notice the reaction of the patients as we walked past them. As soon as they saw her, there was instant recognition accompanied by a huge warm smile and friendly greeting.

Seeing the patients' reactions quickly reinforced for me: this is why we are here.

Whenever the time away from home becomes difficult, it is certainly moments like these that make it all worthwhile.

In the coming weeks and months, I hope to be able to visit more of our medical facilities and write about my experiences. The scars of war run deep in this country which is home to amazingly warm and friendly people.


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