We have asked him a few questions about his work and the situation in northern Iraq. A photo documentation of his activities in the camp Domiz is also available: Image gallery.
Martin Zirn, why are you currently in Iraq?
UNHCR made a request to SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) for a Senior Technical Coordinator for its Iraq operation. Currently I am stationed in Erbil in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
What are your tasks there?
My main job as Senior Technical Coordinator is to direct the construction of two health centres in Ninewa and Erbil. I work closely with all stakeholders, such as the donor representatives, the respective government authorities, implementing agencies and, of course, with the UNHCR to coordinate the parties involved in the projects, to oversee the work to ensure that requirements and standards are met, and to make sure the projects are completed on time.
I am also involved in the camp planning for people who are fleeing the violence in Syria. I provide technical advice on site planning and support UNHCR and the local authorities in all camp-related matters to cope with the influx of people from Syria.
What does an average day look like for you?
Once a week I visit the UNHCR Dohuk Field Office and Domiz camp, which is a 2.5-hour trip from Erbil and 2.5 hours back. Sometimes I stay overnight in Dohuk to have more time for sector coordination meetings as well as meetings with local authorities and government departments that are also involved in the Syrian response. Sometimes trips to Baghdad and other places are necessary. On other days I am busy in Erbil with meetings with local authorities, other agencies and colleagues from other units.