Monday, April 30, 2018

Rich and Poor in Iraq

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. 

Poverty and a lack of services are preventing rebuilding in Mosul, forcing thousands to choose the lesser of two evils and return to the refugee camps. Over 37,000 Mosul returnees have chosen to go back to the IDP (internally displaced person) camps since January while 2 million have yet to go back home. In some of the camps to the east of Mosul, the returnees outnumber those who are leaving to go home. 

Much of west Mosul lies in ruins. In some parts of Mosul, the rubble, and the mines and bodies beneath it, continue to prevent returns.  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. 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. 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. What's more, schools are overcrowded and health services are below standard.  According to the World Bank, the unemployment rate in Iraq's liberated areas is currently around 21 percent.
The situation in East Mosul is very different, with rebuilding in full swing. Here, the wealthier citizens have access to loans from friends and institutions. Hovig Etyemezian, who heads the Mosul office of the UNHCR,  points to the private-sector solutions introduced there to counter the lack of state-provided electricity and water: "Generators and water are brought in by trucks. The issue is whether you can afford to pay for it."
 Etyemezian explains, "People no longer have the means to live and are returning to the camps. Their actions are not linked to the security situation or the armed conflict. "Camps for me are the final and the worst option," Etyemezian said. "They are supposed to be temporary, the last resort. Displacement leads to trauma every time. Meaning that if people return because it did not work out, they suffer additional trauma. The more displacements you experience, the more traumatic and the less dignified your life becomes," he added.
Etyemezian has seen time and again, " the assumption, when a war ends, that the problems are solved. But actually, you often need more money after a conflict. Because it's only when the dust settles that you realize how much damage has been done. It is easier when a conflict is at its peak, as people come to you and the media and donors can see it. Now it is much more complex."

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