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Mercy Hands' Humanitarian Efforts in Kurdistan Region of Iraq: A Journey of Growth and Development

In late 2015, Mercy Hands established a mission in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), which became fully registered at the Directorate of NGOs in Erbil in 2016. The mission is headquartered in Erbil with field offices in Duhok and Sulaymaniyah governorates. Since its establishment, Mercy Hands' mission in KRI has implemented various programs.

One of these programs was the Iraqi Alumni Association Development Program (IAAD), which was launched in 2016. The program was designed to build the capacity of three Iraqi Alumni Associations, namely Southern Chapter (IIAA Iraqi Independent Alumni Association), Central Chapter (DHA Development Horizon Association), and Northern Chapter (EPA Exchange Program Alumni). The program was implemented in partnership with Mercy Corps and funded by USAID. Mercy Hands assisted the three associations in formulating their vision, mission, and goals, developing organizational and leadership structures, and completing the process of registering as NGOs. The organization also provided training on fundraising, planning and budgeting, communications, and outreach and recruitment of new members. The Northern Chapter (EPA) was trained in Erbil by Mercy Hands' team there.

In 2017, Mercy Hands set up a greenhouse inside Domiz Camp-1 for Syrian refugees in Duhok governorate. The organization trained a group of 22 vulnerable Syrian refugee men and women on how to manage and operate the greenhouse and continued to provide the greenhouse with technical and financial support. The greenhouse was later converted into a community garden with different crops cultivated inside and around it. Over the years, the greenhouse was used for various other agricultural activities and projects. In 2023, the greenhouse was relocated to Domiz Camp-2 in Duhok.

Mercy Hands' sub-mission in Duhok facilitated the establishment of its mission in North East Syria under the direct management of the organization's mission in Erbil. In 2021, Mercy Hands implemented the "Sew for a Living" project in Shariya IDP camp in Duhok with support from Save the Children. The project aimed to provide vocational and business training for economic independence and psychosocial support to improve the livelihoods of women residing in Shariya camp. In 2022, also with support from Save the Children, Mercy Hands implemented a child protection project in Duhok to ensure safe, protective, adequate, gender-sensitive, and inclusive learning environments for IDP primary age children in Sharia Camp while increasing their psychological wellbeing and resilience. The project benefited a total of 2130 children.

Mercy Hands' Erbil mission has developed larger partnerships with international donors over the years due to its cumulative experience and increasing role in the humanitarian context in Kurdistan Region and other northern parts of Iraq.

From 2017 to 2018, Mercy Hands Erbil mission managed the implementation of a UNICEF-funded child protection project in Erbil and Ninewa, which aimed to register 1080 child beneficiaries to receive cash and conduct community-based education awareness raising campaigns.

Mercy Hands partnered with Malteser International from 2017 to 2021, working on emergency and livelihood projects in Iraq's conflict-affected regions. One project, "Supporting Economic Development in the Ninewa Plains Through Restoration of Sustainable Livelihoods," aimed to restore sustainable livelihoods in Hamdania and Talkaif districts by distributing livestock assets, greenhouses, agricultural equipment, and business grants, and providing various training programs. Another project provided complementary humanitarian assistance, including multi-purpose cash, protection measures, psychological and social support, and livelihoods training, to conflict-affected IDPs, host communities, Returnees, and Remainees in the Governorates of Anbar, Ninewa, and Duhok.

In 2018, Mercy Hands partnered with Polish Humanitarian Action to provide emergency and subsidiary social assistance, including vocational training in IT and beauty services, electrical works, and dairy production, as well as business development training and asset distribution to 240 beneficiaries. Mercy Hands also co-led the logistics cluster in Iraq in 2019, responsible for the sectoral working group, coordination, and information management in Baghdad and Erbil.

From 2018 to 2019, Mercy Hands implemented a project in Hamdaniya District, Ninewa Governorate, funded by Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e.V., that focused on establishing sustainable livelihoods for returnees, IDPs, and vulnerable host community members through training, asset distribution, and rehabilitation of the Directorate of Agriculture's learning farm.

In 2021, Mercy Hands implemented a project for UNICEF called "The Iraqi National Youth Volunteering Platform," recruiting youth volunteers and local businesses to offer volunteering opportunities in Federal Iraq and KRI.

In collaboration with Mercy Hands Europe in 2022, Mercy Hands implemented a project titled "Strengthening Civil Societies and the Rule of Law in Iraq as a Peacebuilding Tool" in Erbil and Baghdad. The project aimed to strengthen local human rights NGOs, train and mobilize prison and justice sector actors, and foster concrete solutions to reduce human rights violations and restore trust in justice.

Mercy Hands' mission in Erbil continues to grow and contribute to the humanitarian and development efforts in the region.


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