Freed from ISIL, Mosul slowly comes back to life

Main Mosul photo
UNDP is supporting recovery efforts of the Government of Iraq in the newly liberated, second largest city of Mosul. Photo: UNDP Iraq/2017

Mosul, 31 July 2017- More than 1 million Iraqis have been displaced from Mosul since military operations to retake the city from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) began in October 2016 - of those who fled the city, more than 800,000 are still displaced. The conflict and two-and-a-half years of ISIL control left homes, schools, health facilities, and other key infrastructure in ruins.


East Mosul
Damaged residential and commercial buildings in the Aden neighbourhood in east Mosul.

Thousands of women and men, many from extremely poor and vulnerable families, now have jobs rebuilding their communities whilst 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 neighbourhood. “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 east Mosul, Ibn al-Atheer Hospital suffered extensive damage.

Ibn al-Atheer Hospital
Bullet holes riddle the main entrance at Ibn al-Atheer Hospital in east Mosul.

Freed from ISIL in January 2017, eastern Mosul is recovering. Schools and businesses are open, and nearly the entire population has returned to their neighbourhoods. Western Mosul, fully liberated in July 2017, is in a different category. The levels of destruction are the worst in Iraq. Western Mosul represents one of the largest and most complex stabilization challenges the UN has ever faced.

UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) is supporting the Government of Iraq to stabilize areas liberated from ISIL, which took control of Mosul in 2014 and swiftly advanced through nearly a third of the country including major cities Ramadi and Fallujah. Currently, the Facility is implementing more than 1,100 projects in 28 key locations —repairing damaged water, electricity and sanitation systems, rehabilitating education and health facilities, and jump-starting the economy with small business grants and jobs for residents such as clearing rubble.

men cleaning
Men from eastern Mosul clean city streets as part of a cash-for-work project.

Teams of women supported by UNDP spent weeks scrubbing down blackened walls, scouring and sweeping floors and cleaning hospital windows.

Amira Saleh cleans a window at Ibn al-Atheer Hospital.

“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.”

Gogjali School
School is back in session at the Gogjali School for Girls, eastern Mosul.

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

“We love school and learning because it can change our life and our views. We can help people more if we are educated,” said Rasol, 12, student at the Gogjali School for Girls.

Mosul University
Two students walk between classes at Mosul University.

Students returned quickly to the University of Mosul 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, providing it with 50 generators, deploying teams to clean the grounds and clear debris, and rehabilitating dormitories for women and four Women’s Education Faculty buildings.

University of Mosul
The main library at the University of Mosul was burnt and left in ruins by ISIL.

ISIL fighters retreating from western Mosul blasted 72 trenches across the last seven kilometres of the main road leading to al-Athbah Hospital. They also hid a 10-kilogram 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 the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) cleared the area, a team supported by UNDP moved in quickly to repair this vital route from front line to hospital. These repairs have made 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.

al-Athbah Hospital
Repair work is underway on the main road out of west Mosul to al-Athbah Hospital.

Villages and towns near Mosul, many of which are home to vulnerable minorities, suffered extensive damage. UNDP is supporting Ninewah Governorate to rehabilitate infrastructure and provide job opportunities to help create conditions under which people can safely return home.

Andreas and Samia al-Ghareeb were amongst the first residents of Karamles to return home in May, saying they looked forward to seeing their old neighbours at an upcoming celebration. “Karamles is a nice town,” Andreas said. ISIL militants took Karamles, about 30 kilometres southeast of Mosul, in August 2014, driving out the roughly 650 families living there. The town was liberated in October 2016.

Samia and Andreas
Samia and Andreas Ghareeb in their home in Karamles.

Repairing water infrastructure is key to creating the conditions for displaced Iraqis to return home. The rehabilitation of east Mosul's al-Qasoor Water Treatment Plant is nearly complete. The plant is already providing safe water to more than 300,000 people.

Iraqi contractors paint the walls near filtering tanks at the al-Qasoor Water Treatment Plant in east Mosul.

Before it suffered extensive damage during the ISIL retreat, the Gubba (al-Qubba) Water Treatment Plant was the largest in eastern Mosul, providing clean water to some 600,000 people. Ninewah Governorate and UNDP will oversee its rehabilitation and repair.

A worker at the Gubba Water Treatment Plant in eastern Mosul.

Repairs to the as-Salamiyah Water Treatment Plant, south of 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 now have access to safe drinking water.

Workers at the as-Salamiyah Water Treatment Plant.

“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 Khawla, a resident of as-Salamiyah. “The water is much better now. We can even drink from the taps.”

Khawla in her kitchen in as-Salamiyah.

Mosul residents are working hard to revive 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 neighbours help each other. Rebuilding our city is one way to do that.”



Photostory was published at UNDP Stories.

Text by Lindsay Mackenzie and Sarah Jackson-Han; photos by Alex Potter and Lindsay Mackenzie/UNDP Iraq/2017

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