War on Terrorism

Monday, February 23, 2009

On the Ground: New Clinics, Schools, Supplies Improve Life for Iraqis

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 23, 2009 - In ongoing humanitarian operations, Iraqi and coalition forces recently celebrated the opening of a medical clinic and three schools and delivered wheelchairs to Iraqi children. About 30 people gathered for the grand opening of the Tovo Medical Clinic on Feb. 12 in the Kani Karweshkan foothills in Halabja, Iraq.

The clinic, named in honor of Army Brig. Gen. Kenneth Tovo for his past service in Iraq, will be equipped with more than $25,000 of medical equipment and will significantly improve the region's medical care and provide essential services throughout the Kurdish autonomous region, a coalition forces advisor said.

The clinic provides centrally located access for nearly 500 residents from six surrounding villages to a medical facility and a staff of three full-time doctors.

Potential long-term projects include paving the clinic route to make it more accessible, drilling wells to provide water to the clinic, establishing nearby electrical lines for communication, and expanding clinic services, officials said.

"The opening of this clinic is just one of several planned to promote local participation and demonstrate the government's commitment to maintaining security while encouraging social and capital development," Army Col. Bill Buckner, Multinational Corps Iraq spokesman, said. "Projects like this one create short-term benefits and long-term potential consistent with the intended goals of the Iraqi and [coalition forces] partnership."

People in northern Iraq had more reason to celebrate as regional government leaders there and coalition forces on Feb. 12 inaugurated the first school in the mountainous region of Kani Mayor Village.

The new school supports growing educational needs and serves as a platform for the future economic stability of the Kani Mayor Village and surrounding communities of Panjwin.

"When decent schools are not available for their children, parents have traditionally packed up and moved from their villages to the city. After awhile, due to the exodus of people, the village's economy begins to suffer," an area tribal leader said.

"By putting brick on brick, it is proof you are not only protecting our people from terrorists, but also caring for our children's educational future," the regional education director said. "Thank you for giving the children a place to study and have a future."

The modern schoolhouse is fully equipped with five classrooms, two bathrooms, new desks, textbooks and overhead lighting. Additionally, in an effort to attract and retain the most qualified educators, a separate building was constructed to serve as living quarters for the instructors.

Village children expressed sincere appreciation and were happy to leave behind their temporary schoolhouse, a chicken coop loaned from a local farmer.

"It's nice to finally be rid of that old school and not have to share [my new school] with chickens," said a 13-year-old girl, who is excited to get back to school and continue her Arabic lessons.

Future improvements include hiring additional instructors, digging a well for the school to have running water and expanding the instructors' living quarters.

Two more newly refurbished primary school buildings opened in Umm Qasr Feb. 19.

The two U.S.-funded operations, totaling $271,100, outfitted the Al Nashaa and Al Marfaa schools with new paint, windows, electrical systems, plumbing, reconditioned bathrooms, roofs and desks. Local officials, town council members, Iraqi troops, coalition civil affairs representatives, school staff and students were on hand for the opening.

"Today we open this school to be the future light for the students," said Abu Ali, headmaster of Al Marfaa. "The first three words of the Koran means to 'read.' The scripture says it wants everyone to be educated. Education is the duty of every Muslim person."

Because of poor upkeep, the schools in Umm Qasr suffered from leaky roofs, broken windows, desks that were splintered and falling apart and other structural problems.

"Our main reason for these restorations was to provide the children with a safe learning environment," Army Sgt. Adam Kirschner, project manager from 42nd Military Police Brigade at Camp Bucca, said.

Kirschner said projects like these are important to the future of Umm Qasr, because the town is growing rapidly due to economic development generated by the country's only deep-water port.

Seven schools in the area have been refurbished in the last 12 months with help from Kirschner's unit. Umm Qasr Secondary School is next on the list and should start in about two weeks, he said.

Later this month, soldiers from Multinational Division Baghdad and their Iraqi army partners provided a life-changing experience to Iraqi children with the Feb. 18 delivery of more than a dozen new wheelchairs in Adwaniyah.

Seeing that many families could not afford wheelchairs, Iraqi soldiers worked with U.S. troops to acquire and deliver the wheelchairs.

In another humanitarian operation, coalition forces traveled to a small town in the Maysan province of southern Iraq on Feb. 20 to deliver food and household products to 150 families.

The 4th Battalion, 38th Iraqi Army Brigade, led the humanitarian mission, along with U.S. soldiers.

"Many improvements can be made in this area," said Maj. Ali, an Iraqi army company commander in charge of the mission. "The citizens of Al Maymunah still lack basic necessities, such as clean water and consistent electricity."

Ali and his unit handed out bulk packages of sugar, flour, beans, soap, toothpaste and hygiene products to the citizens of the impoverished neighborhood. The delivery was one of the largest in several months, as the soldiers also distributed blankets, tarps and more than 300 first aid kits. Children were given hand puppets, teddy bears and comic books.

The assistance comes at a time when many Maymunah residents are living without shelter and a consistent source of income to buy basic necessities.

"I was happy to receive a tarp to cover the holes on my roof," said Mustafa Jasim, a vehicle repairman. Others told the Iraqi soldiers they would be able to feed their families for several weeks with the supplies they were given.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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