photo: Eddy van Wessel


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Poverty and lack of services in Iraq force refugees back to the camps

Poverty and a lack of services are preventing rebuilding in Mosul, forcing thousands to choose the lesser of two evils and return to the camps. Over 2 million have yet to go back home. Judit Neurink reports from Mosul.

Poverty in Western Mosul  PHOTO JUDIT NEURINK
Mosul, Judit Neurink

"My children collect scrap iron to sell," Abbas Mohammed said, picking up the iron pipe that one of his sons was playing with. The war against the "Islamic State" (IS) group left a lot of scrap lying around in Mosul, and trucks full of it leave the city daily.

"They pay us 250 dinars per kilo," Mohammed told DW. That is about €0.20, which in Iraq's second city will buy you a sweet tea in a teahouse. Many kilos a day need to be collected for a family of eight to get by.

Mohammed lives with his wife and six children in a poor part of west Mosul, the part of the city which suffered the most during the battle to evict IS. "Everyone here is tired and poor," he said. "We have no money."

Much of west Mosul lies in ruins, but Mohammed's Al-Amal neighborhood was only partly damaged. When he returned after fleeing the battle, he found the roof of his simple home destroyed. But he has no money for repairs. Like his neighbors, his poverty has grown since the IS occupation and the subsequent war, and nine months after the city was declared liberated their homes remain barely habitable.

According to the World Bank, the poverty rate in Iraq's liberated territories has doubled to over 40 percent, and the UN warns that one in four Iraqi children now live in poverty. The World Bank and Iraq's government set up a special fund of $300 million (€248 million) in February to improve living conditions for more than 1.5 million poor households by increasing access to basic services and creating job opportunities.

Mohammed is one of the 700 lucky recipients of housing units; the UNHCR, the UN's refugee organization, has placed it in his garden. These temporary shelters were supposed to tide people over while they repaired their homes, but the lack of money has turned them into permanent features. According to the UN, in Mosul alone more than 40,000 houses need to be rebuilt or repaired. The organization estimates that rebuilding in Iraq's liberated territories will cost at least $17 billion.

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