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Baghdad sandstorm

August 3, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sahar Alnouri/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Sahar Alnouri/Mercy Corps

Getting Ahmed Jassim to his new post in Afghanistan was never going to be easy.

He was moving from our programs in Iraq to Kabul to serve as our new Operations Manager there. His routing would take him through New Delhi, India, where he would secure his visa for Afghanistan — but first we had to get him out of Iraq.

There were bureaucratic delays, canceled tickets and an embassy closure in observance of the spontaneous vacation day that occurred when the Iraqi government declared June 30, the departure date of coalition forces, an official holiday.

But after a month of back and forth, Ahmed was ready to leave — until the sandstorm hit. When I received the news that Ahmed would need to change all of his upcoming flights, he had already spent one night in the Al Muthana Airport in Baghdad (and definitely not in any kind of executive lounge). To illustrate his plight, Sahar Alnouri — one of our Program Managers in Iraq — sent me a photo. Weather forecast for Baghdad: orange.

We tried to cancel his flight and have him come back to the office, but his bags were loaded and Turkish Airlines would not let him out of the airport. So, Ahmed spent another gritty night at Baghdad International until the dust settled down and he was able to leave for Delhi, secure his visa and arrive in Afghanistan.

Our field staff are a sturdy lot: adaptable, entrepreneurial, quick-thinking and persistent. It's this same skill set that allows them to work effectively in our programs around the world. Or survive two days in a sandstorm.