• About CIVIC

    CIVIC is a Washington-based non-profit organization that believes the civilians injured and the families of those killed should be recognized and helped by the warring parties involved.

    On this blog, you will find stories from our travels around the world as we meet with civilians and military, aid organizations and government in our quest to get war victims the help they need.

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  • Contributors

    Sarah, Executive Director

    Marla B, Managing Director

    Kristele, Field Director

    Liz, Chief Communications Officer

    Trevor, CIVIC's fellow based in Afghanistan

    Chris, CIVIC's fellow based in Pakistan

    Jon, CIVIC's US military consultant

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PAKISTAN: Job Wanted: Nine-year-old seeks full time employment to support family.

Unidentified Pakistani boy. Photo courtesy of Chris Hondros.

Posted by: Shelly

When I was nine, my biggest responsibility was to make my bed in the morning and sometimes I didn’t even do that.  Like most kids, I was completely reliant on my parents and other adults to meet my needs. But what if one of my parents died and it was now up to me to not just make my bed, but also support my family?  Would the nine-year-old me have known what to do?

Jamil Khan, a nine-year-old in Pakistan, was presented with such a problem when he became the head of his household after his father was killed during a Pakistani military operation against the Taliban. His father was one of hundreds of civilians in Pakistan killed or injured amidst ongoing military operations against the Taliban. And in his father’s wake, young Jamil is responsible for supporting his family — a task difficult for an adult, let alone a child who has to quit school and earn a living.

But what other option does a family like Jamil’s have?  What can help a family heal its wounds, and then pick up the pieces and continue to support itself? An unlikely source has an answer: Colonel Nauman Saeed, a Pakistani military officer who led operations in Bajaur Agency, calls for the global community to look beyond donations and aid.  He explains, “We need compensation and not ‘alms’ for the victims of wars because the world in general and the US in particular owes it to us… We need to hurry and reactivate their livelihood and launch projects for education, health, power supply and create jobs to avoid these people falling into the Taliban trap again.”

Families like Jamil’s need this compensation, not alms, because it addresses two needs.  The first, as Col. Saeed explains, is to compensate for losses and the second is for psychological trauma. Monetary compensation for families like Jamil’s can help the family stay afloat after losing its head-of-household and can keep Jamil from being forced into the workplace at such a young age.  But compensation addresses more than economics: it can also help a family begin to heal after loss or harm.  It’s recognition of the loss and pain the family has gone through and can serve as an official apology, which is often dignifying despite the tragedy.

Unfortunately, compensation payments won’t last forever and this is where sustainable aid enters the scene. Long-term aid, like livelihood projects, isn’t a handout or a donation; rather, it’s implemented by experienced humanitarians and often enables a family to create an income on their own for the long haul. Families who’ve lost their source of livelihood – be it their breadwinner, home, business or job – deserve the opportunity to support themselves once again.

As warring parties review the way they react to “collateral damage,” we hope to see more immediate compensation to get families back on their feet and longer term aid, like livelihood assistance, to sustain them.  Jamil and his remaining family deserve those opportunities.

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IRAQ: On the Road to Recovery By Way Of Amends

Posted By: Shelly

Mention “war” or “armed conflict,” and many people scroll through mental images of soldiers engaged in combat or of pock-marked villages halfway across the world. But these images are just a fraction of that  element. War’s impact doesn’t end when the bullets and bombs stop.  Its effects stretch beyond the fighting and encompass civilian death and injury, community destruction and devastatingly interrupted lives. Civilians’ basic needs are often no longer met and their capacity to meet them in the future is made nearly impossible when their livelihoods are gone. They are left with very little help from the warring parties to rebuild. For communities ravaged by war, there is a desperate need to regroup, re-form, heal and adapt to these unexpected life changes. But where do they start?

Helping civilian victims positively reshape their lives is a first and very crucial step toward moving away from living a life in war. In South Central Iraq, many of these crucial steps are being taken and have begun to crack the shell of devastation.  Instead of picturing the horrible aftermath of combat, picture a man in Diwaniyah, who recently opened a store with help from USAID Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund. Picture a group of students at a vocational school in Kerbala who previously learned about their trade through theory, but who now have new and updated machinery to help prepare them for technical careers in electrical system repair and car mechanics, among other jobs that can benefit their communities.

Livelihood assistance to civilians, such as that provided by the Marla Fund, is a way for warring parties to begin the process of amending harm and placing recovery at the front of the agenda. In this case, it’s the U.S. Government that has taken the step of making amends, and is changing lives one at a time. Making amends, recognizing harm and offering to rectify in some way can help a community recover and heal in dramatic ways. When a family has the tools and hope for their future, the entire community benefits.

Making amends goes beyond recognizing harm and apologizing. It creates the opportunity to rebuild lives and sets the stage for families to flourish.