Freed from ISIL, Mosul slowly comes back to life

Since military operations to retake Mosul, Iraq, began in October 2016, fighting has displaced nearly half a million people. The conflict, following two-and-a-half years under Islamic State control, left homes, schools, health facilities, and other key infrastructure in ruins. 

With both eastern and western Mosul freed, Iraq and its international partners must tackle one of the largest rebuilding and stabilization challenges the world has seen in decades. 

UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) is supporting fast-track initiatives of the Government of Iraq in areas liberated from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which took Mosul in 2014 and swiftly advanced through nearly a third of the country including major cities Ramadi and Fallujah. 

Currently, the FFS is undertaking just over 1,000 projects in 25 key liberated areas agreed upon by the Government of Iraq. 

The facility, supported by 23 donors, is implementing more than 350 projects in support of the Government of Iraq in newly freed areas—repairing damaged water, power, and sanitation systems, rehabilitating education and health facilities, and jump-starting the economy with jobs for residents such as clearing rubble. 

Thousands of women and men, many from extremely poor and vulnerable families, now have jobs rebuilding their communities while earning badly needed salaries. “I didn’t see my family for three years during this conflict,” Ibrahim Mustafa said as he cleaned a roundabout near the al-Zuhur neighborhood. 

“Now that I’m back, I need a way to support them. This job helps me do that. We are a hardworking people in Mosul. We help each other.” One of the largest health facilities in Mosul, Ibn Al-Atheer Hospital suffered extensive damage. 

Teams of women supported by UNDP spent weeks scrubbing down blackened walls, scouring and sweeping floors, and cleaning hospital windows. “My husband was killed in the conflict,” Amira Saleh, a widow from Mosul, said. “I want to work here as much as possible to support my family.” 

Another worker, Khalida Sabry, described their tasks as other women swept the halls. “This was black, and these walls were black, and there was soot everywhere. Women are great at this work, and we need to get out anyway. We’re proud to make the city livable again.” 

Mosul’s children missed more than two years of school under Islamic State occupation. UNDP is rehabilitating damaged and destroyed classrooms in and around Mosul, as well as Mosul University. “Education is the basis of society. It is how you build a country, with educated people,” Gogjali Boys School Principal Najah Ismaeel said. 

“We love school and learning because it can change our life and our views. We can help people more if we are educated,” Rasol, 12, a student at the Gogjali School for Girls, said. Students returned quickly to Mosul University after it re-opened in May 2017 to clean up the campus and finish exams. 

Fortunately some buildings escaped unscathed or suffered only minor damage. UNDP’s Funding Facility is helping rehabilitate the university, notably providing it with 50 generators, deploying “cash-for-work” teams to clean the grounds and clear debris, and rebuilding dormitories for women and four Women’s Education Faculty buildings. 

Islamic State fighters retreating from western Mosul blasted 72 trenches across the last seven kilometers of the main road leading to Al-Athbah Hospital. They also hid a 10-kilo improvised explosive device in the debris. 

Ambulance drivers had to slow down for every bump as a result, turning what had been a 15-minute run into a hair-raising 40-minute journey. After a United Nations Mine Action Service cleared the area, a team supported by UNDP moved in quickly to repair this vital route from frontline to hospital. 

These repairs will make the ride smoother and save precious time in rushing critically ill or injured patients to medical care. “When the road is done it will improve our patient outcomes,” said Rodney Lifts, a registered emergency room nurse. Villages and towns near Mosul, many of which are home to vulnerable minorities, suffered extensive damage. 

UNDP is rehabilitating infrastructure and providing job opportunities to help create conditions under which they can safely return home. Andreas and Samia al Ghareeb were among the first residents of Karamles to return home in May, saying they looked forward to seeing their old neighbors at an upcoming celebration. 

“Karamles is a nice town,” Andreas said. Islamic State militants took Karamles, about 30 kilometers southeast of Mosul, in August 2014, driving out the roughly 650 families living there. The town was liberated in October 2016. Repairs to the As-Salamiyah Water Treatment Plant in eastern Mosul were completed in May. 

Nearly all its equipment, including water pumps, filters, and retaining pools, were replaced or rebuilt and the main power line between As-Salamiyah and Hamdaniyah repaired. Hundreds of thousands of people in the Ninewah Plains and eastern Mosul now have access to safe drinking water. 

Before it suffered extensive damage during the Islamic State retreat, the Gubba (Al-Qubba) Water Treatment Plant was the largest in eastern Mosul, providing clean water to some 600,000 people. The Ninewa Governorate and UNDP are overseeing its rehabilitation and repair. 

“When the treatment plant wasn’t working, all the water that came from the pipes, if it came at all, was filthy. We had to go to the river to get water, and even that was barely suitable for washing,” said Khalwa, a resident of As-Salamiyah. 

“The water is much better now. We can even drink from the taps.” Mosul residents, now liberated, are working hard to rebuild their city and their lives from the wreckage left by years of occupation and months of conflict. 

At the roundabout, Ibrahim continues clearing debris, restoring Mosul street by street. “Here in Mosul, everything is gone,” he said. “Our jobs, our homes, our livelihoods. But we still have our souls. All our neighbors help each other. Rebuilding our city is one way to do that.”

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