Voices from the field: Kevin in Iraq

Iraq wasn’t the easiest sell to friends and family as a first mission, knowing full well that our perceptions are skewed and our knowledge limited to stories from the media. The most I had heard about Iraq that summer was the liberation of Mosul from ISIS, a city I knew I MSF was working in. From September’s referendum to October’s Kirkuk offensive, to November’s earthquake and December’s mass protests, a lot would make the news but little would describe my experience.

Buying olives at roadside (Mosul, Iraq)

It took no time in Erbil to realise the beauty of the city and the people in it: fresh baklava at the 7000-year-old citadel and mint lemonades overlooking the souk. It was making friends with local runners at SAPAS, feeling the pride of Kurdistan at the Erbil International Marathon, and ordering olives on the roadside running down the outskirts of Mosul.

Working intersectionally with all five OCs meant the chance to stay with three different sections in Kurdistan and to use the resources of two others in Baghdad. OCP drivers drew my mental map of the webbed streets of the Kurdish capital, OCA’s driver dodged protests to make meetings in the political hub of Sulaymaniyah, and OCBA offered a driver and friend who would open my eyes to the history and beauty of Baghdad from a 10th floor balcony, above the concrete barriers along the infamous Tigris.

Remuneration Analyst Kevin Kempe in front of Erbil Citadel

Every trip to a comparator, every interview translated, and every hour spent in traffic was a chance to know the personal side of the driver beside me. To hear their plans for their future, their visions for MSF, and their pride and faith in their country; these were the conversations meant for cars, not coffee breaks. These would be the people most affected by my work, and regardless of the outcomes, they remained available to drive, to discuss and to discover Iraq with me.

Kevin was on benchmarking mission in Iraq in autumn/winter 2017.