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BAGHDAD — For two years now, Pfc. Qusay Aziz has risen each morning in the dank confines of a metal shipping container, rolled off a stained, torn mattress, put on his right leg and reported for duty.
He and three other severely injured Iraqi army soldiers live in the container on the edge of an Iraqi National Police base in Baghdad’s Khadamiyah district and, like many of their wounded comrades, struggle to pay medical bills and have been repeatedly refused retirement by the Iraqi government.
“I feel very bad, very angry,” said Aziz, 31, whose leg was ripped off by a roadside bomb in 2004. “The people who are now in government are there because of the army and what the soldiers sacrificed.”
Meanwhile, Aziz and his three container mates, with injuries ranging from a missing arm to multiple shrapnel wounds, work one week on, one week off. Their only toilet is an empty, overgrown lot; there is no shower and no running water. During summer, the heat seeps past the dingy rugs and metal sheet covering the container’s open entrance, a faulty air conditioner offering little relief; a damp chill takes hold during the winter. During the rainy season, the roof leaks.
Pfc. Yahia Abud’s heel and ankle are an amorphous, scarred mess, the result of a mortar blast that ripped apart his foot in 2004. He wears a walking cast and hobbles around using a metal crutch. He says on his salary, he can’t take care of his wife and three children and pay for the regular doctor visits and painkillers his injuries require.
“Each month I borrow money from my friends,” said Abud, 31.
Another container resident, Sgt. Hadi Ramadan, was riddled with shrapnel from a mortar in 2004. He has repeatedly put in for retirement and repeatedly been denied. Ramadan, who supports a wife and eight children, is not optimistic his lot will improve any time soon.
“We know for a fact that the Iraqi government will not take care of us,” he said.
Unable to go on patrol anymore, the soldiers are officially there to guard a weapons cache, but their days are spent in boredom, smoking cigarettes and worrying about families they now struggle to support.
UNITED NATIONS, February 11 -- UNICEF pays consultants up to $625 a day, but the National Committees which used UNICEF's name to raise money apparently pay up to $1200 a day. As UNICEF Germany is engulfed in scandal, repeated requests for UNICEF chief Ann Veneman to answer questions were met Monday with a series of terse written responses.