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Special Iraqi Kurdistan // N°27 // October 2014

Spéciale Kurdistan Irakien


By Christian Lombard, co-director

"At the time of his kidnapping, David Haines, along with other expatriates and Syrians, was addressing the vital needs of many refugees, working on access to drinking water, food and basic necessities. This assassination is the denial of the human right and duty to have access to populations in danger in order to rescue them. It is worth repeating that humanitarian aid is delivered on the basis of only urgent needs without parallel consideration of any kind, be it political, ethnic, religious or otherwise. Murdering David Haines means no less than attacking humanitarian aid itself and the populations who have the most urgent needs in Syria, Iraq, and all around the world."

This text is an excerpt from the press release issued by Coordination humanitaire et développement on September 14, on the date David Haines was murdered.

In addition to the outrage it has sparked well beyond the humanitarian community, this unspeakable murder is one of the signs of the increasing deterioration in operation conditions that humanitarian action has been witnessing for several years.

According to information released by the Database on the security of humanitarian workers (Humanitarian Outcomes), in 2013 we list 460 casualties (155 killed, 171 seriously injured and 134 kidnapped), an increase of 66% over the previous year. A record level, and a worrying trend that has been confirmed in 2014 with 79 deaths between January and mid-August, more than throughout 2012.

As crises multiply and become a lasting reality, humanitarian aid is an absolute necessity. At a time when our humanistic foundation is shaken, we need to stand up to barbarism with more than just a coalition, a real humanity pact supported by the nations and starting with the full restoration and complete rule of international humanitarian law.

When executions succeed one another in a series of despicable media staging, it is the basis of our humanity that is threatened. In this context, the international community must agree on the following priorities: respect for humanitarian law, dialogue among peoples, and search for common and sustainable solutions in a real improvement process.

TGH in Iraqi Kurdistan: an emergency mission in a tense situation

With the recent French commitment to fight against the Islamic State, the execution of journalists and humanitarian workers, and the threats of revenge broadcasted repeatedly on television, Iraq is making world news again.

The Iraqi Kurdistan region in the north of the country is particularly impacted by the extremely rapid and violent progress of the I.S, which is now claiming a territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border. Erbil, the Kurdish capital, the only place still secure in the area, became the rear base of NGOs, the press, the army, but also a place of refuge for over 215,000 Syrian refugees and 850,000 displaced Iraqis fleeing barbarism.

Kurdistan is a very meaningful place for TGH, which took its first steps there, developing programmes from the 90s onwards, and the NGO is still very attached to that region.

Iraqi family moved Daratoo
  Iraqi family moved Daratoo
  Photo : TGH ©

« We came back to Kurdistan naturally in February 2013, with the aim of participating in the aid towards Syrian refugees. This first visit lead to a host programme for Syrian refugee children, carried out together with a local Syrian NGO. It is an institution where children receive schooling and psychosocial care », explains Anne Tréhondart.

The funds required for the implementation of this programme was provided by the European Commission Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), with the money from the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the European Union in 2012 - European Initiative « Children of Peace ».

The vast majority of the 250 children going to school every day has fled Syria under extreme conditions, taking along the bare minimum. For these children, daily difficulties are adding to the trauma of exile.

Address the most urgent needs... pending funding

Everything accelerated in Erbil when the I.S became a player on the international stage: « Previously, we had significant, but not ultra-massive, population displacement. But in early August, the spectacular progress of the Islamic State generated massive displacement waves. Hundreds of thousands of people arrived in Erbil and Dohuk » - a town further north.

  Erbil -   Photo : TGH ©

Erbil is a modern city, with its skyscrapers, ongoing construction works and large avenues. Most displaced people decided to settle in a suburb of the capital, some of them able to afford to rent an apartment, but most of them simply squatting empty public buildings or schools – closed in August - as temporary habitat.

« The first need we identified at that time was access to water and sanitation. So we quickly set up drinking water distributions (80,000 liters per day) and rotations to empty septic tanks. This may sound very basic, but access to latrines is essential » - especially in crowded places where poor hygiene can quickly turn into a health crisis.

TGH is currently working in 12 schools in this district, where some 4,500 people survive pending housing solutions or a potential return. « Schools were scheduled to reopen on September 10th, so it's been three weeks that Kurdish children do not have access to schools, which are by the way quite damaged... What will happen to these displaced people? Where will they go? » - Anne wonders, underlining the slowness of the humanitarian response on the ground, because of the slow release of funding.

However, since the beginning of the crisis, Saudi Arabia has allocated $500 million to the UN, who have been mandated to find operational partners on the ground...

During the emergency in August, the Rhône-Alpes region granted TGH 40,000 euros to address the emergency, a drop in the ocean when you consider the needs, every day more pressing, of the displaced populations, whose more than precarious situation might become explosive.

« In the emergency plan we estimate our needs at about 300,000 euros, and at 400,000 euros to support 600 families this winter » - a particularly tough season in this region.

Camps under construction should open quickly, but schools are still inaccessible to Kurdish students. Despite the groundswell of support shown by the Iraqi Kurds towards their unfortunate neighbours, tensions start to appear in this host region which also suffers the brunt of the crisis.

« The idea now is to continue supporting people providing them with basic services as long as they will be squatting schools, and to follow them when they will settle elsewhere or when they will return home, addressing their priority needs. We also want to restore schools, provide decent living conditions for the displaced populations (basic necessities, heating and revival of economic activity), and implement programmes towards both communities to avoid tensions ».

Photo : TGH

Photo : TGH

Photo : TGH

Photos : TGH

Photos : TGH

Photos : TGH

Photos : TGH

Photos : TGH

Photos : TGH

Photos : TGH

Photos : TGH

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An unstable security situation

For now, Erbil remains a safe place. However, the threat is nearby, and some battle lines are only a short distance away from the Kurdish capital. Threats against French nationals in particular, due to the country's involvement in the coalition, do not enhance future prospects.

« We know that Jordan and Kurdistan are among the target countries which have already received some very clear warning messages from security agencies, and we do not know to what extent the Kurdish army will be able to contain the I.S. Although the security situation is acceptable for the moment, threats to humanitarian workers in terms of kidnapping or attacks are to be taken seriously. There is a real risk for Kurdistan to follow in the footstep of cities like Baghdad or cities recently taken over by the Kurdish army, which are regularly the targets of attacks. »

Faced with a particularly restrictive and complex security challenge, TGH carries out its mission with local staff, thus avoiding the threat to expatriate workers: « by chance in Iraq, there are people really skilled for this type work, and we are lucky to have no problem with local authorities who are particularly open to our presence here. We discuss with them about the projects we want to develop, and they give us advice and make sure that humanitarian assistance is well organized... in this kind of context it is something rare. »

At the moment it is extremely difficult to predict the future of these populations: « we must admit that we are stumbling around in the dark, and from a military point of view it is not clear how this will end. We don't know for how long the displaced people are here, and their number is likely to grow in the coming weeks. Our ultimate goal of course is to be able to escort them back home when the crisis is over, but nobody knows in what state they will find their country or region of origin »…

Sanad Anis's profile

Sanad has been around for quite a while. At the age of 42, he already has substantial experience in working with displaced or refugee populations, those thousands of civilians going from one border to another to flee the violence striking a country that has become hostile to them.

Sanad Anis
  Sanad Anis

Originally from Yemen, he has been working with TGH for more than 15 years. An adventure that started in September 1998, when he made himself useful in his own country, where the NGO had just opened an assistance programme for 8,000 Somali refugees escaping the war in their country.

« Initially, I was an administrative assistant, but I was soon promoted administrator and later assistant to the head of mission in 1999 », says Sanad, who was not really predestined to work in the humanitarian sector.

« Before TGH, I had worked in the hotel industry for a large Swiss company. Obviously, it was a radical change for me to move from the private sector, from business, to humanitarian aid. But I had friends who worked in international solidarity and the more I heard about it, the more I was interested in action in the field. I just needed to change ».

So for many years he went on, signing in for a series of successive missions to see TGH's activities unfold in Yemen.

« And now here I am! », he laughed. Here meaning Iraqi Kurdistan, a region currently making the world news headlines, bordering Syria, where the armed group Islamic State is raging, and whose capital, Erbil, still preserved, hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

Sanad shares his experience - which began in June - with simplicity, always putting things into perspective: « To be honest, there was nothing strange to me about the situation. I am used to this public. I must say that work has been particularly difficult in Yemen. Here I feel pretty comfortable, though being a foreigner is not easy. In Yemen, my knowledge of the field was an asset, I had a lot of information, contacts, etc. Here I have to start all over again ».

Speaking Arabic and English, he is one of those non-French expatriates we don't often hear about, but who are nevertheless the cornerstones of many NGO missions around the world. An asset that his French colleagues readily admit: « A Sanad is often better off than a little Breton in some countries! » recounts one of them with humor and realism.

In charge of some twenty people, the head of mission lives according to vague and uncertain news items, never really knowing what to expect the next day: « What is sure is that the situation is likely to get worse, and we expect many more people » - in addition to the hundreds of thousands of people haunting any abandoned roof in Erbil, waiting to go home. « 150,000 people have crossed the Turkish border in recent days. That’s not a good sign for our sector », he says.

Experienced, and « good at this job », Sanad is nevertheless a man, a husband and a future father. And when we ask him if distance isn’t too difficult to bear, he says, laughing: « please, don’t remind me of how difficult it is! ».

There, in France, where he has been living since 2012, a little baby is « on the way » due in March: a reminder of how this job made of « travel » and « adventure », can also be a priesthood when it requires to stay away from your loved ones.

Every three months, however, he spends some time with his wife, who also works in the humanitarian sector: « A beautiful family story », in other words.

In short…




During the summer, TGH's team continued the implementation of its programmes in Sahrawi camps. Managing the mechanical workshop, which is part of the programmes funded by UNHCR, is particularly important during the summer as the maintenance of the vehicles is made more difficult by the intense heat, requiring a different work organization, while it is imperative to continue provide the same quality of response to address the humanitarian needs of Sahrawi refugees.

TGH's other activities, namely the management of the Weather Haven and Dakhla bases, the provision of basic hygiene products (soap, hygiene kits and bleach) and the support to existing medical facilities in the refugee camps, continued throughout the summer.

In May 2014, a new programme, a continuation of the previous one, started, funded by DG ECHO.

It primarily aims to continue providing paramedical comfort and mobility equipment for people with disabilities living in the camps, the previous programme having provided this equipment only in the camps of Boujdour and Aoussert. This new programme will also provide capacity building for the social workers who daily accompany people with disabilities and their families and for their referent at the Ministry for Social Assistance and the Advancement of Women. During the summer was launched a call for tenders for the purchase of the necessary equipment, and an assessment of the needs of people with disabilities in the camps of Smara and Dakhla was refined.

This programme also includes two new components. The first one is the beginning of the construction of a new mechanical workshop that will replace the current one, which has outdated infrastructure and equipment. This construction will be finalized in a future programme. This action will be accompanied by technical and managerial capacity building of the staff. The second one is the maintenance of an acceptable security environment necessary to continue humanitarian action towards Saharawi refugees. TGH has agreed to supervise administratively the staff in charge of guarding the living and working places of humanitarian workers.




The food security and rural development programmes, financed by France (PFA and AFD) in the rural enclave of Chin State (in the western part of the country) are still running. The rainy season and access constraints have caused minor delays in the implementation of some activities. The emergency programme (financed by PFA) should be completed by the end of the year after having reached the established goals (secure food access for the most vulnerable people and increase the production capacity of farmers in the area), and the development programme (financed by AFD) will continue next year. The search for financial partnerships continues in order to complete the financing plan of the development programme. Given the scale of the needs, TGH, with the help of its local partner AYO, already studies the future operational interventions it would be appropriate to conduct once these two actions completed.
TGH is still conducting feasibility studies for the establishment of a vocational training center in hotel management and catering, to foster the social inclusion of disadvantaged young people. Discussions are being held with the local authorities in charge of the sector, but also with the French authorities in the field (very involved on this issue). TGH is currently seeking technical and financial partnerships in order for that project to become operational.
TGH is currently holding discussions on the improvement of its internal tools and methods related to the management of partnerships (both technical and financial). TGH’s mission in Burma has recently undergone an external audit which was used to study the various partnership approaches used, and to identify key levers for improving the management of these partnerships. This evaluation was conducted by ARGON Consulting within the frame of a skill-based sponsorship.


Congo Brazzaville


Triangle GH continues its efforts to strengthen the capacity of Caritas Congo and FOJEP in the field of rural development.
Concerning protection, the project implemented together with the Congolese network of associations REIPER is directly supported by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
A mobile base in charge of covering part of the needs of street children in their living area should open in the fourth quarter 2014. 1,000 children are directly targeted by the programme.


North Korea


In the water and sanitation sector, TGH is finalizing the rehabilitation programme of the water supply network of the city of Sohung (funded by the Swedish International Cooperation Agency, SIDA). This project received additional funding from Oxfam Hong Kong for the extension of the drinking water system to the district 5 of the city, and the construction of additional health infrastructure, particularly in schools. Work is nearing completion and the team finalizes the assessment of awareness-raising activities on good hygiene practices.

In the food security sector, TGH’s team conducted an evaluation of two new fish farms, in North Pyongan Province and in the administrative area of Nampo, in order to improve the food security of young children in these regions. The project agreed on consists in implementing in these two farms the integrated fish farming system previously introduced in two farms in the province of North Hamhung. This programme, conducted in partnership with the Office of Aquaculture, is based on a system requiring few external inputs and allowing a rapid increase in production. It consists of several stages aiming to increase fish production in the farms through an integrated agriculture-breeding-fish farming system, and to improve the logistics distribution network from the farms to children's institutions and fish conservation and preparation practices in institutions, through the optimizing of equipment and knowledge. This project was submitted to the European Union.

Finally, a programme started in January 2014 on the theme 'non-State actors' of the European Union, aiming to improve the living conditions of the elderly in North Korea through capacity building of the Korean Federation for the Care of the Aged People (KFCA). During the first phase, which took place during the first half of 2014, needs were precisely assessed with the partner, activities and their methodology were accurately planned, and the foundations for a transparent and balanced partnership were laid.
The grant issued by the Inter-ministerial Food Aid Committee allowed the provision of appropriate assistance to the elderly, and the increase of the food production capacity of nursing homes. KFCA is also the operational partner for the implementation of this action.




In the agricultural irrigation sector, the project implemented in Khammouane Province and funded by the Rhône-Alpes Region is still running: the dam was completed during the first phase, and works on the irrigation canal are about to start. In the Water, Hygiene and Sanitation sector, the programme started in May 2014 reaches the end of its preliminary phase. TGH is currently finalizing the drafting of the tender documents for the drillings and the latrines. The completion of these works depends on the partnership agreement with local authorities, which is currently being finalized.




The implementation of the first programme aiming to repair fishermen’s boats and to purchase equipment in Sulangan, with funding from the Fondation de France and the Crisis Center, led to a rapid resumption of fishing activities. The construction phase of new boats was completed and provided the community with 70 large and medium size boats. The individual assessment of beneficiaries, conducted at the beginning of the intervention, provided TGH with accurate data on the actual needs in terms of fishing, but also in terms of complementary activities (small shops, handicrafts and other income-generating activities).
The gradual phasing-out of humanitarian aid (stop of food and non-food item distributions, withdrawal of some NGOs at the end of the emergency phase) and the transition from emergency to rehabilitation raises new challenges. Indeed, some households depended hitherto on humanitarian aid efforts in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda, and were unable to recover their livelihoods. In such a situation, support for the establishment of own-source revenues in the coming months has emerged as a priority in areas affected by typhoon Yolanda.


Central African Republic


The new President Catherine Samba-Panza will manage the transition until the elections scheduled for early 2015. Unfortunately, the government is overwhelmed by the scale of the many challenges it is facing: securing the country, disarmament and demobilization of combatants, a humanitarian crisis that continues to worsen including in Bangui, the restoration of the administration and judicial, economic and social reforms.

To these challenges we can add ever increasing community-based tensions between "anti-Balaka" self-defense militias - made up mostly of Christians - and members of the former Seleka, mostly Muslims. In spring 2014, the Muslim minority in particular paid the price for that, but the entire population is the victim of massacres, atrocities, displacement, forced grouping, looting, etc. While backing-off, former Selekas carry-out the scorched-earth policy and commit summary executions. The anti-Balakas then take over the cities abandoned by former Selekas, targeting Muslim communities who are trapped, as is the case in several cities in the west of the country.

According to the UN, mid-March 2014 there were 600,000 IDPs in the country: 177,000 spread across 49 sites in Bangui; 15,000 from the Muslim minority considered as being "in danger"; and 280,000 refugees who were supposedly able to reach neighboring countries (80,000 in Chad, 126,000 in Cameroon, 11,000 in Congo Brazzaville and 62,000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo).
The deployment of the peacekeeping mission taking over from Sangaris and the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), started September 15. Sangaris will accompany the deployment of peacekeepers until early 2015.

TGH is a major humanitarian actor in CAR, and the NGO continued to extend its activities throughout the year 2014, and developed an emergency programme for displaced and refugee populations in the following sectors: water, hygiene and sanitation; food security; education; and rehabilitation of roads and infrastructure. These actions are implemented in the Ouaka and Vakaga Prefectures where numerous clashes cause massive population displacements.

In Bangui, the organization continues to intervene in the protection sector through a support project for street children, while contributing to the capacity building of a network of local organizations specialized on that issue. TGH has the objective to develop protection activities from the beginning of 2015.

The current team consists of 14 expatriate staff and 100 national staff, spread across different operational bases (Bangui, Bambari, Grimari and Birao).
In CAR, TGH is supported by the European Union, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, the French Embassy, the French Foreign Ministry and the French Development Agency.




Despite a major escalation of the conflict in Darfur, TGH has been able in recent months to consolidate its action thanks to the renewed support from several donors and to new funding contracts, combining emergency interventions, to quickly address the needs of newly displaced persons or people affected by crisis, and a longer-term approach through capacity-building of local actors and improving the resilience capacity of populations. More specifically, actions are financed by usual emergency donors (DG ECHO in particular) to allow the establishment of emergency stocks and the development of a rapid response to major humanitarian needs (access to water and sanitation, to basic necessities and to basic agriculture) with parallel projects of longer duration (2-3 years) to consolidate the transfer of the management of water and sanitation infrastructure to local actors (WES, water management committees and beneficiary communities) and to implement sustainable solutions to improve the livelihood of the populations.

During the summer, TGH’s team also provided emergency assistance to the inhabitants of Foro Boranga, affected by floods, by providing them with basic necessities and taking part in the WASH response.


Timor Leste


Started in May 2011, the programme implemented in the district of Oecusse and aiming to improve access conditions to drinking water and health facilities was completed last August. Thanks to this project, 13 rural villages, representing more than 10,000 people, now benefit from sustainable access to safe drinking water, and participated in awareness-raising activities aiming to improve practices related to hygiene and the use of water. Besides, improved family latrines were built for over 8,000 families. Finally, TGH conducted specific continuous training sessions for the staff of provincial water and sanitation services and members of village water management committee. These training sessions allowed the management of various newly constructed buildings for maintenance and improved equipment on the long-term.

In addition, TGH continues the implementation of its capacity-building programme for non-State local actors and local NGOs in order to develop appropriate responses to the needs of women and children victims of domestic violence, widespread in East Timor. According to UNDP evaluation, nearly 40% of women are victims of violence. 86% of women and 81% of men believe that a husband has a legitimate right to beat his wife. Since 2010, the government passed a law to fight domestic violence, but rights are ignored and access to legal aid is very limited.

As part of this programme, TGH works together with local associations and Timorese authorities, whose mandates and intervention methods, although relevant, lack financial resources, management skills, and technical training for actors in the field. There is currently no academic training in the social sector, and all social workers rely on their own experience, without any theoretical basis in the psychosocial field or in project management.

This action therefore aims to: improve the organizational and managerial capacities of 4 Timorese partner associations; provide better care to the victims; set up activities favouring socio-economic integration; and educate the Timorese population about the rights of children and women and the existing protection devices.