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UNICEF mourns the loss of Iraq staff member Janan Jabero, 1954-2007

© UNICEF Iraq/2007
On 31 December 2006, UNICEF staff member Janan Jabero left his house in Baghdad to go see a friend. Several days later he was found shot to death.

By Claire Hajaj

AMMAN, Jordan, 10 January 2007 – On the last day of 2006, UNICEF staff engineer Janan Jabero, 52, left his house in Baghdad to go see a friend. He never made it. Several days later, his family and colleagues learned that he had been found shot to death in his car.

Mr. Jabero’s death is one of so many daily tragedies facing the people of Iraq – an unexplained shooting, a life cut short and a grieving family.

In his seven-year career with UNICEF, Mr. Jabero had come to represent everything that Iraq still had to hope for. He stood for children, possibility and all that UNICEF is trying to achieve in Iraq under the most challenging circumstances imaginable.

Concern for children’s safety

Mr. Jabero joined the UNICEF Iraq staff in March 1999. At the time, UNICEF was deeply concerned by the rapid decline in both the quality and quantity of educational services in Iraq after years of war and sanctions.

© UNICEF/HQ03-0047/Noorani
A boy draws a picture in a school in northern Iraq. UNICEF staff engineer Janan Jabero assisted in the process of rehabilitating Iraq's schools.

A project was already under way to physically rehabilitate thousands of schools that were unsafe, damaged or destroyed. A graduate of the University of Baghdad in civil engineering, Mr. Jabero was determined to put his skills to work for Iraq’s education system.

“Mr. Jabero was a perfectionist and cared about the finest details,” said his colleague Mowafaq Quattan. “When helping to rebuild a school he would want to know that the window glass and lighting met the highest standards, and that the electrical fixtures and sanitation facilities were suitable for children. Children’s safety and comfort were his first concern.

“He wanted the schools to last a long time and children to feel good in them,” added Mr. Quattan. “He wanted to see the smiles on their faces.”

UNICEF Iraq still uses systems today that were innovated by Mr. Jabero, including technical and contracting guidelines for school rehabilitation.

© UNICEF Iraq/2007
During his seven years with UNICEF in Iraq, Mr. Jabero was known as a perfectionist whose first concern was the safety and comfort of children.

Remembering ‘a true believer’

The advent of war in 2003 did not keep Mr. Jabero from his work. Despite ever-present danger, he and his fellow staff engineer were regularly out on the streets in Baghdad and other parts of the country. They provided critical assessments of the condition of schools and other looted or burned Ministry of Education buildings, helping UNICEF speed the resumption of schooling.

Mr. Jabero’s determination to speak out for the best interests of Iraq’s schoolchildren – along with his fighting spirit, pugnacious optimism and fearlessness – earned him the nickname, ‘Tiger’. Many international donors and visiting dignitaries experienced firsthand his passionate conviction that to work in Iraq is to believe in its future.

News of Mr. Jabero’s death has brought a flood of condolences from all over the world. Those who knew him say his unique expertise made him an invaluable colleague, and his character made him a dear friend.

“Mr. Jabero was a true believer in Iraq’s future – an unwavering beacon of optimism in dark times,” said UNICEF Representative for Iraq Roger Wright. “All of us at UNICEF Iraq are determined to carry his spirit forward and continue our work, to realize his vision of a better Iraq for every child.”




10 January 2007:
UNICEF Representative for Iraq Roger Wright pays tribute to staff member Janan Jabero, who was killed earlier this month.
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10 January 2007:
UNICEF Representative Roger Wright talks about UNICEF’s challenging work in the midst of the conflict in Iraq.
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