• Aram HAKIM with contribution from Mohammed ALESI

Salim's journey has been a long and difficult one marked by war and displacement, financial instability and uncertainty about the future. However, through determination and hard work, along with the support of IOM Iraq’s Individual Livelihoods Assistance (ILA) programme, Salim has been able to rebuild his life and support his family.

Salim's troubles began in 2014, when the Qairawan district of Ninewa Governorate was engulfed by war. Before the conflict, Salim owned a blacksmith shop in the district, which provided him a steady source of income to support his wife and nine children. However, when the fighting broke out, Salim was forced to flee with his family to Mosul in search of safety and security.

Unfortunately, Salim's troubles were far from over. With his blacksmithing tools and car lost in the conflict, Salim struggled to find work that would provide him with a stable income. He resorted to odd jobs like transporting materials for shop owners to make ends meet.

Salim's fortune took another turn for the worse when he was displaced to a camp, where he was unable to find any work at all and was forced to rely on assistance from kind-hearted friends and neighbours. His debts began to mount, and he found himself losing hope in life, with no source of livelihood to sustain him and his family.

Despite the difficulties, Salim did not give up. After three years of displacement, he returned to Qairawan district, where he found his blacksmith shop in ruins. Although he longed to rebuild it, he lacked the resources to do so, and was forced to continue relying on the assistance of others to make ends meet.

It was at this point that Salim learned about IOM’s ILA programme, which is designed to help individuals improve their skills; encourage entrepreneurship; generate employment opportunities; and support rural economic recovery through assistance to micro-enterprises, vocational training and on-the-job training.

Salim enrolled in the programme and was thereby able to equip his blacksmith shop with the tools necessary for it to run smoothly. He also received training and skills reinforcement that boosted his confidence and renewed his positive attitude.

"My dream of rebuilding and restarting the blacksmith shop has come true," Salim said with a smile. "During the days of training, I felt optimism and hope that overwhelmed me after several tiring days. After that, I started working and earning money, meeting my family's needs and my children's requirements for studying, and also paying my debts."

Thanks to the ILA programme, Salim was also able to pay off his debts and begin to rebuild his life. Through its tailored approach, the ILA programme is able to support people like Salim to develop their skills, practice their trades and buildbetter lives for themselves and their communities.

ILA equips individuals with the competencies they need to enter the job market and develops their occupational skills to practice a trade or other occupation. As Iraq’s agricultural sector continues to face decline, farmers in particular are provided with the skills necessary to enhance their knowledge of agriculture. The programme also provides access to micro-finance in the form of cash grants for new and expanding micro-enterprises.

Today, 90 per cent of participating households have reported an increase in their monthly income, with an average increase of 53 per cent. In addition, 89.24 per cent of micro-businesses assessed after three months of support remain operational, with 91.16 per cent of their owners believing that their business will continue to operate.

In difficult and even seemingly impossible circumstances, a little bit of livelihood support can make a huge difference – empowering individuals and communities to improve their lives and build sustainable economic futures.

This assistance was made possible with support from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities