Iraq: Adeela Harith, Iraq "I have to scrounge around rubbish bins to feed my children"

News and Press Release
Originally published
BAGHDAD, 31 May 2007 (IRIN) - Adeela Harith, a 39-year-old widow and mother of three, says she misses the days when her husband was daily bringing them food and when they used to sleep in a safe house in comfort. As a recently-widowed displaced person, she has no support and is now collecting left-overs from rubbish bins to feed her children.

Adeela - who is the mother of Ahmed 14, Zaineb 12 and Yasser 8 - said she had tried to get a job as a housekeeper but did not succeed as most families cannot afford maids or do not trust strangers in their homes. Without an education, she was left with no choice but to look for food in rubbish bins.

"I have to scrounge around rubbish bins to feed my children. They no longer attend school. The oldest two are street beggars and the youngest, Youssef, is with me looking for food in rubbish bins.

"Some people told me that the best way to survive was to find a temporary husband or maybe work as a sex worker to feed my children but I prefer to eat garbage than to lose my dignity.

"There are days when we don't find enough and we have to sleep near an abandoned school in Baghdad, hungry. It is easy to get water but people do not give out food as before. When I had my own home, I tried to help anyone who came looking for food. But now I'm in their place and I have come to understand how the Iraqi people have changed and their hearts have become hard.

"My husband was killed by militants from the Mahdy Army [the Shia militia] in January 2007. He was a good man and didn't deserve such a sad end. He was tortured and his body was mutilated. I don't have parents. The only brother I had was killed a year ago and his wife is leading a similar life to mine.

"After my husband was killed, militants came to my home and threatened to kill everyone if we didn't leave our house in 24 hours. I left without carrying anything. I tried looking for a place to stay in the outskirts but no one wants to give sanctuary to a widow with three children.

"A local NGO recently told me they will assist me but I am still waiting. Youssef has serious diarrhoea and two weeks ago Zaineb got sick from the food we ate. The doctors told us to stop eating food which we collect from rubbish bins but we don't have a choice. Either we eat like this or we die of starvation.

"I will keep trying to find food for us in rubbish bins and with the money my children get in the streets by begging, we can buy some water and milk for them. I keep remembering how good the old days were when we had good food, good health and good living conditions but now our life is a disaster. And with the deteriorating situation in Iraq no one cares any more."