Mobile legal teams aid uprooted Iraqis
Mo'ayd is one of more than 1.5 million people who have been uprooted inside Iraq during seven years of unceasing war and brutal sectarian strife. Together with his wife and five children, Mo’ayd only recently was able to return to the Saydiya neighborhood of Baghdad that they called home before fleeing the city in 2007.
But their life has not returned to normal. Because Mo’ayd can find only sporadic work as a laborer, the family must share a crowded house with five other families. More ominously, Mo’ayd’s two-year old son, Ali, was diagnosed last year with a serious heart condition. But so many doctors have fled the country over the last decade that there are few qualified physicians who can treat the boy.
Fortunately, Ali's predicament came to the attention of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) after a mobile team from one of its Protection and Assistance Centers visited the family’s home to assess their access to services and offer legal help.
The Protection and Assistance Centers help displaced and formerly displaced individuals and families access social services, and provide free legal advice and representation and referrals. The IRC is responsible for centers in four Iraqi governorates: Baghdad, Anbar, Babil, and Salah al Din. To reach prospective clients, the centers dispatch mobile teams comprising lawyers and social workers.
In Ali's case, the Protection and Assistance Center staff pointed out that the Iraqi Ministry of Health has agreements with countries such as Jordan, Turkey and India that allow referral of special cases like his. Though the referral process is lengthy and bureaucratic and many families cannot meet the required burden of proof, the center’s staff succeeded in securing medical treatment for Ali in neighboring Turkey.
Turkish surgeons operated on Ali in June, 2009. To the relief of the family, the operation was successful. The doctors did, however, recommend a follow-up operation when Ali reaches age four.
Despite a still-uncertain future, Mo’ayd now expresses optimism. “We were in despair, but now we have a hope to see our son healthy,” he says. “This feels like a miracle!”