Not just a number

Often when trying to explain a global issue we turn to statistics to demonstrate the severity of the issue. The problem which arises when we begin to use numbers to represent real life problems is that we often become forgetful of whom these numbers actually represent. We begin to consider the issue as numbers which need to be changed, rather than lives. In my final piece before leaving to Iraq I explained that there are currently millions of orphans living in Iraq and millions more needing humanitarian aid. At the time, I thought I was simply stating the facts, not realizing the injustice I was doing to all the individuals who make up these millions.

Upon meeting some of the orphans and families supported by The Zahra Trust I was astonished at how unique each case was. I realized how wrong it is to simplify an issue, which concerns millions of individual cases, into one unified problem. Each family had their own unique story and hardship which they had gone through. For example, some orphans were under the care of their mother (in Iraq a child who has lost one or both parents is considered to be an orphan) and experiencing severe financial struggles due to the loss of their breadwinner. Others were being cared for by grandparents due to the loss of both of their parents. Others were in the care of aunts and uncles because either their grandparents were too old and could not support them alone, or they too had passed away.

Amongst all the families there was one which was especially in need of help. This family included a grandmother caring for her three grandchildren. The children, two girls and one boy, had lost both of their parents. After the death of their parents, their aging grandmother began to provide their care alone, although she herself was also very tired and requiring support. It would seem like that would have been enough trials for their family, but unfortunately the youngest boy recently was diagnosed with cancer. The grandmother who had already been significantly struggling to provide for these children was now under more pressure to provide.

Unfortunately, if you are not financially stable in Iraq, becoming diagnosed with cancer is often perceived as equivalent to a death sentence. Treatments are extremely expensive and without much governmental support, poor families who have members diagnosed with cancer become helpless. As someone who had personally seen people living with cancer in Iraq and been aware of the financial burden which came with it, I immediately became extremely concerned for this family. It was apparent that the boy was at risk of not receiving his medical treatment due to lack of financial means. The trust made it a priority to try and provide for this family as much as they could. Members on the trip had volunteered to also contribute towards the family and help.

Although we can say that we contributed and tried to help, it’s hard to be satisfied with what we’ve done. The family will still need continuous support and no doubt there is a long path ahead of them which will involve many struggles and heart breaks. It also is hard to be satisfied when you know that there are millions of more children with their own unique struggle that may not be getting any support. Thinking about these millions of others, whom we do not even get the chance to hear their story, makes me overwhelmed with a feeling of shortcoming. It also makes me realize how important initiatives like the Voice of the Child are to attempt to tell the story of these millions of innocent children.



If you’d like to contribute towards the family described in the piece please contact us at Any support would be greatly appreciated.