International Volunteer Day
On International Volunteer Day, a big THANKS to all young people in Iraq raising awareness and taking action on COVID-19
5 December 2021. – More than a year and a half ago, COVID-19 became part of our lives. In Iraq, young people represent more than half of society, and they are among the most affected by COVID-19. On December 5, on International Volunteer Day, we celebrate all those young people which have given a step forward in Iraq to help their own communities face the pandemic.
With the contribution of the German Government and the Czech Republic Government, and in partnership with the Directorate of Youth and Sports and the Directorate of Health, UNICEF continues to work on raising awareness on COVID-19 by having trained and mobilized more than 100 young boys and girls all over Iraq in collaboration with its local partners. These young people continue engage communities through door-to-door interpersonal sessions, and organize gatherings in many district and governorates on importance of vaccinations, misconceptions, rumors, common symptoms, frequently asked questions, and preventive measures against the virus, reaching till today more than 1,200 youth, adolescents, caregivers and teachers.
Shahrban, 16 years old
16-year-old Shahrban has been living in Mamarashan camp in Dohuk, Iraq, with her brothers for six years since they left their home in Sinjar due to the recent conflicts.
"I do this work because I find it is my responsibility to protect people against this dangerous virus. A lot of people responded to us and decided to get vaccinated. This action makes me feel that I am doing a great service to my people, Plus, here the camp is a small closed community, I feel that the spread of the epidemic here could harm many people", Shahrban says.
Basel, 20 years old
Basel, 20 years old, also lives in Mamarashan camp. He goes to the youth gatherings near the football stadium in the camp. “I love football, I come here every day to watch the teams play, and I do my part to educate those around about the importance of vaccinations and safety measures. At first, they didn't pay attention, but I did not give up on them. They are now more responsive," says Basil.
Fatima, 22 years old
On the other side of the country, in Basra, there are groups of young people who also work every day to raise the community awareness on the importance of getting vaccinated. They go to youth centers, knock on doors, and stop cars to spread awareness among people about the importance of the vaccine and the potential risk if people do not receive their doses.
Fatima Saeed, from Basra, is 22 years old. She is a student at the College of Law, University of Basra. She loves humanitarian work, and her dream is to become a civil activist.
"I personally changed my way of thinking about the vaccine, I was afraid of it at first, we all as a family had this feeling, until my father was infected with this virus and we lost him very quickly due to the worsening of his health. It was tough days for us, but when the vaccine appeared and I learned about it, I felt that everyone should get vaccinated as soon as possible. I still feel that we would not have lost our father if he had taken the vaccine," says Fatima.
Haider, 22 years old
Haider is an accounting student at the University of Basra, 22 years old. Founder of a volunteer team of 22 people, who carry out campaigns to support the province, such as planting trees and cleaning campaigns. “I was infected with the Corona virus, I recovered from it, then I took the vaccine, and I convinced my family to take the vaccines too," says Haider.
Ayat Saeed, 23 years old
Ayat Saeed, 23 years old, is also a good example of how volunteers are bringing change to their communities. Ayat graduated from the Institute of Accounting and is now studying at the Faculty of Languages, Department of Arabic Language. She lives in Basra with her family. “The pandemic at the beginning was a nightmare for us, we did not go out of our house, we sterilized everything. When the vaccine arrived, we were somehow reassured, but we are aware that the risk is still there. I think the risk will decrease when everyone receives the vaccine. The issue is difficult, but it is not impossible. I do not think there is anything impossible for us as young people. We will try to convince as many people as possible,” says Ayat.
Tabarak, 18 years old
From Anbar, Tabarak, 18 years old, “Before I joined the COVID-19 campaign, I was a very shy girl. I attended the orientation session with UNICEF on the importance of the vaccine but was too shy to even to ask any questions. After doing many communities speaking exercises and conducting actual community engagement activities, I felt more confident to speak up and express my thoughts. For me, this was a big gain and I feel that developing this type of skill will open many doors for my future.”
UNICEF is also working on a parallel campaign in digital platforms, such as U-Report, Voices of Youth platform and rumor-tracking dashboards.85 young men and women, mostly girls, have participated so far through videos and blogs raising awareness on mental health and well-being and COVID-19. UNICEF has reached more than 35,000 people in Iraq with information on preventive measures and symptoms of COVID-19, while youth continue to support the risk communication and community engagement interventions in Iraq.