Enabling children to grow, develop skills and remain safe
Basra, 08 June 2017- “Every day on my way home from school, my friends and I spend our afternoon playing at the playground,” said Mahdi, 11, from Al Nashwa sub-district of Basra, South of Iraq.
- Four playgrounds were constructed between Basra’s sub-districts of Al Nashwa and Al Dair to provide children with a safe space to play
- "We became better friends as we play together daily at the playground,” shared Mahdi
- To ensure sustainability, the completed playgrounds were handed over to the municipalities to include them in their future maintenance plans
In 2015, and under the UNDP-Shell Partnership, four playgrounds were constructed between Basra’s sub-districts of Al Nashwa and Al Dair to provide children with a safe space to play.
After consultations with the local communities and stakeholders, the lack of safe spaces for children surfaced amongst the priorities listed that required improvement. Children’s safety was an ongoing issue amongst the communities of Al Nashwa and Al Dair.
“Our children were in danger because they were playing near the roads, which worried all the parents,” said Sa’ad, a resident in Al Nashwa.
The four fenced playgrounds provide a range of facilities such as a football pitch, swings, fitness equipment, lighting and a seated shaded area attracting both children and youth.
Balanced and active play is essential for children to thrive because it helps them to learn, grow, and develop important skills related to creativity, social connection, and leadership. In order to encourage play, it is important for children to have access to safe places within walking distance of their homes.
“We don’t have to use rocks anymore for goal posts or play in the dark on the rubble,” said Mahdi. “Playing inside the fence feels much better because we don’t have to worry about the ball rolling to the street.”
To sustain the playgrounds and promote cleanliness, the Partnership Programme also equipped the playgrounds with trash bins along with water tanks for the plants. The availability of play areas is critical to knitting communities together and helping children to interact with others, which was prevalent on the playgrounds in both sub-districts.
“All the children here know each other because we are from the same neighbourhood, but we became better friends as we play together daily at the playground,” shared Mahdi.
One year after the playgrounds’ establishment, the UNDP-Shell Partnership conducted an assessment and found them in great need for maintenance and repairs. The Partnership carried out major rehabilitation through local contractors, and added caravans to ensure the presence of security guards from the communities of both sub-districts. To ensure their sustainability, the completed playgrounds were officially handed over to the municipalities that will be able to include them in their future maintenance plans and budgets, to maintain these safe outlets for children and the local community.
Along with other activities like school renovations, and interventions on road safety for children, the construction of the playgrounds was within the larger umbrella of the UNDP-Shell Partnership for Local Development.
The UNDP-Shell Partnership in Basra was launched in 2012 to build participatory planning and local area development capacity, and implement respective activities in communities near the Majnoon Oil Field in the Governorate of Basra, South of Iraq. The Partnership also aims to enable high quality vocational training and support the micro, small, and medium enterprise environment.
Text and photo by Farah Sayegh/UNDP Iraq