IRAQ: Hundreds forced to scavenge for food in garbage bins

Published on IRIN, by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – as/ar/cb/bp, Oct. 19, 2007.

Barira Mihran, a 36-year-old mother of three, scavenges every day in other people’s dustbins in Baghdad for leftovers on which to feed her children.

Widowed and displaced by sectarian violence, the unemployed mother said she had no other way of providing for her children.

“In the beginning it was very difficult. I never imagined that one day I was going to be forced by destiny to feed my children from the remains of other people’s food,” Barira said. “We always had good food on our table when my husband was alive but since he was killed in August 2005, my life has gone from bad to worse.”

“My children are under age and so cannot work or beg in the streets,” she said.

“Sometimes you have to fight for a dustbin. Many women know which houses have good leftovers and so they wait for hours near the houses until the leftovers are thrown in the bins outside. Then you can see at least 10 people, women and children, running to get it, and I will be in the middle of the crowd, for sure,” Barira added …

… Vulnerable to attack:

According to the local police, many homeless women, walking around with their children on the streets of the capital, are victims of violence.

“We have some cases of women who were raped, and their children attacked and sometimes even killed while out looking for food or a place to spend the night,” Col Hassan Abdul-Khaaliq, head of Bab-al-Muadham police station in Baghdad, said.

“They need a safe place to stay because the streets in Iraq are very dangerous today and walking alone at night… leaves them open to attack by militants or insurgents,” Abdul-Khaaliq said. (full text).

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