The Chaos Does Not Last: Reflecting on Six Years in Iraq

Chaos has a way of putting on a show and garnering every ounce of our attention if we let it. Once it takes centre stage, chaos works quickly to deplete our energy reserves and distract us from goodness around us.

As country director for Medair in Iraq, there were times when it felt like all I did was deal with chaos. There were moments of intensified violence, a humanitarian emergency as Syrian families crossed into Iraq from northeast Syria in search of safety, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In my home country, the killing of unarmed Black Americans dominated news reports. I witnessed the precipitation of chaos at times within the team, within the larger humanitarian community, within the region, and other times within my very own mind. Chaos seemed to be lurking around every corner. Every time, I ran towards it, hoping to bring situations under control and trying to make outcomes more predictable and the uncertainties more manageable for the team.

Sometimes the chaos made me forget about our successes. When an electrical fire erupted in one of our team houses, or when one of our colleagues was badly injured and hospitalised in a car accident, chaos threatened to overwhelm me. I momentarily forgot that there were countless other team members faithfully reporting to work every day at our supported health clinics to provide health care to thousands of displaced families. In the chaos of evacuating staff to safety, there were teams who continued to ensure that communities affected by conflict had safe drinking water. And when many of our staff faced COVID-19 lockdowns and were unable to access the communities we served on one side of the country, a small but mighty team on the other side of Iraq dutifully suited up in their PPE and continued serving vulnerable families.

In the six years that we have been in Iraq, we have served more than 850,000 people. We served Yazidi communities fleeing attacks by armed groups, helped families in Mosul recover from years of conflict, and provided mental health support to villages affected by violence. Even in the midst of chaos, we never failed to deliver humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable people who needed it most.

Chaos taught me to be less reactive and more grounded in the things I could actually control. The alternative was becoming blinded by chaos and losing sight of the steady wins and daily miracles that always abound if we take time to search them out.

Thankfully, the chaos does not last. In the end, only faith, hope, and love remain.



Medair services in Iraq] are funded by USAID, UNOCHA, ECHO, Tearfund UK, Transform Aid International, Medical Teams International, NAK Humanitas Foundation, and private donors.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.