Born On The Run: Young Iraqi Mothers Fleeing ISIS Give Birth Anywhere They Can

With the battle for West Mosul still raging, and ISIS increasingly using civilians as human shields as coalition airstrikes continue, many expectant mothers are fleeing for their lives – in some cases even giving birth on the run.

Layla* is just three days old and was born in the ruins of an abandoned house, with shelling and shooting all around. Her 17-year-old mother Rehab* was just days away from her due date when the fighting in her neighborhood got unbearable and forced her and her family to flee in the middle of the night.

Rehab fell repeatedly as they tried to escape and went into labor hours into the journey.

“I went into labor on the road. I was very scared for me and my baby but my mother and another older woman helped me,” said Rehab. “It was very quick, maybe just 15 minutes. We rested for about another 30 minutes and then we started running again.”

The family is now in Hamam Al Alil reception center, the main focal point for those fleeing Mosul, where more than 242,000 have been registered since the offensive began.

Most people are relocated quickly, but with thousands arriving every day and more than 320,000 people displaced since the Mosul offensive began six months ago, families, many with young children, are falling through the gaps.

Save the Children is distributing water, toiletries and newborn kits in the camps and have built and continue to clean latrines in the reception center.

Twenty-day old Lubna* has been in the center for almost two weeks. Her 15-year-old mother Reem* was in labor for more than two days but could not get medical care due to the fighting raging outside. The second she was strong enough, her and her mother Masa* fled with several other members of their family.

“Her delivery was very hard, very hard indeed, but there was nothing we could do because of the fighting. We wanted to leave Mosul,” says Masa.

“My brother has been killed and we wanted to go but Reem was too weak, so we stayed for five days and then we left and walked to safety. Thank God Lubna is healthy but we are very worried about her and that she will get sick in a place like this.”

Marwa*, 5 months, at Hamam al-Alil IDP camp in Iraq. Marwa*s mother Ashna* and her father Salar* fled fighting in Mosul with their six young children, including Marwa*. Marwa* said: "The journey was hard and me and the children were very scared. But all I could think about was how we needed to get to safety and how I needed to keep my children safe – so that drove me and kept me going even though the children were very hungry and they were crying a lot. My older children were able to walk but we had to carry the younger ones in our arms – I carried Marwa*, while my husband carried my son and my uncle my other daughter. Marwa* is sick. Ten days ago she got a high fever and bad diarrhea. We were given medicine but it is not working and then, about two days ago, she got a bad cough that is getting worse. Luckily she sleeps at night, but her diarrhea never stops. It is very difficult to deal with this here. There is no privacy at all. Neither me, nor the baby, have had a shower since we arrived 20 days ago and I have five other young children to look after. We all have to sleep on the floor in the tent with many other families. It is noisy and dirty."
Marwa*, 5 months, at an IDP camp in Iraq. Marwa*s mother Ashna* and her father Salar* fled fighting in Mosul with their six young children.

Save the Children’s Deputy County Director Aram Shakaram says:

“The situation inside the reception center is extremely poor and there is a widespread shortage of food, water and blankets. Whole families sleep on nothing but cardboard, huddling together for warmth at night.

“Very young babies, many just days or weeks old are living in these conditions and their mothers, some who are as young as 15, are not getting the support they need.

“With 325,000 people still displaced since the Mosul offensive began and thousands still fleeing every day, it is imperative that we get more funding to support new mothers and their extremely vulnerable children who are starting their lives off in camps.”

Save the Children provides education and psychosocial support to children displaced from Mosul and our child protection teams work in the reception centers to identify cases needing urgent assistance, like unaccompanied minors.

Since the offensive began, we have distributed 3,740 newborn care packages, which have reached almost 11,500 infants. We have also distributed 7,000 rapid response kits that have reached almost 33,000 people and contain essentials like food, water and toiletries for the newly displaced. In addition we are also working to provide clean drinking water and basic sanitation to tens of thousands of people who have fled from Mosul.

To learn more about our response to the refugee crisis and how you can help, click here.

*Names changed for protection

Facing Challenges in the United States, Tax Policy Reform Thrives Abroad

Written by Andrew Wainer, Director of Policy Research, Policy and Humanitarian Response

This spring, Republicans are turning to tax reform, reaching for the policy win the Trump Administration badly needs. Like health care, tax reform is fraught with political pitfalls, making reforming the US’ outdated and complicated tax code another 2017 uphill policy battle.

But even as Congress and the Administration brace for conflict on domestic tax policy, US assistance to developing nations to improve their own tax systems has enjoyed years of bipartisan support.

Multiple US international development agencies – including USAID, PEPFAR, MCC, and the Treasury Department – provide tax policy and administration support to developing nations. The US is the seventh largest provider of domestic resource mobilization (DRM) assistance – as tax reform is called in the development arena. The goal of this advising and capacity-building is to help developing nations harness their public finance systems to better fund their own development and rely less on international development assistance.

Meeting Their Own Development Needs

Years of investment by developing nations themselves – with assistance from donors – has paid off as low-income nations have increased their tax-to-GDP ratio from about 10% during the 1990s to 15%; lower-middle income nations have increased the ratio from about 15% to 20%. This means developing nations are creating a larger tax base and generating more of the money needed to invest in their citizens’ health, education, and other development goals.

Getting tax reform right can have a major economic impact for developing nations: If India adopts its own current tax simplification proposal, it could inject an additional 2% of GDP into the massive South Asian economy by simplifying the tax code for businesses and individuals.

US support for tax reform in the developing world deserves continued support from Congress, not only on self-sufficiency grounds, but also in terms of strengthening governance in a world where the strong rule-of-law is increasingly viewed as the keystone to prosperity.

President Trump himself has emphasized fair taxation and repatriation of US corporate taxes as part of his domestic economic reform package, saying “I know a lot of bad people in this country that are making a hell of a lot of money and not paying taxes.”

And if we can get beyond the stigma of the word “tax,” supporting foreign assistance for DRM includes principles central to both the Democratic and Republican agendas. At its best, DRM assistance includes the following tenets:

DRM is Market Friendly

One of the primary goals of domestic resource mobilization (DRM) assistance abroad is creating the optimal conditions for market-based economic growth. DRM isn’t about soaking the rich, rather it’s aimed at ensuring that tax policy facilitates inclusive economic growth and development. DRM is about creating an attractive environment for domestic and international investment.

DRM Engages Citizens

As DRM enhances states’ capacity to collect and spend revenues, it also provides a platform for citizen engagement in public policy. DRM strengthens the citizen–state compact by ensuring that citizens have the opportunity to influence tax policy formulation and implementation. The OECD has stated, “taxation is integral to strengthening the effective functioning of the state and to the social contract between governments and citizens.”

DRM Reduces Bureaucracy

Part of making tax systems platforms for economic growth, rather than roadblocks, is reducing bureaucracy. DRM assistance includes quantitative goals of raising a developing nation’s tax-to-GDP ratio, but it also integrates the qualitative measure of how a tax system raises money, not just how much it raises.

DRM is about making paying taxes easier for citizens – removing red tape. This can include introducing information technology to make tax collection more efficient and less prone to corruption, simplifying the tax code, and providing better customer service to taxpayers by processing tax returns more quickly.

DRM Enhances Accountability

Of course, sometimes corrupt elites and organizations do game tax systems and part of increasing citizen engagement in tax policy includes increasing the fairness and equity in taxation. US DRM assistance to developing nations includes supporting policy changes to close loopholes for those who don’t pay their fair share.

While US’ DRM technical assistance is a tiny part of the overall US international development budget – for example $20 million per year at USAID – there is growing recognition of the need for donors and developing nations to invest more.

The US government momentum on DRM for developing nations is promising. To maintain it, we’ll need to solidify the transformation of “tax” from a curse word to a widely recognized means to increase citizen engagement in fiscal governance while building a supportive environment for inclusive economic growth.