The 5-Miles camp in Basra, a story of social cohesion and resilience

May 4, 2015

Today’s opening ceremony of new shops managed by internally displaced persons in the popular al-Asri market, 5 miles off the city of Basra, marks a story of success. Following a fire in a community of displaced people in Tannoma District, 300 families (2,000 people) who had lost everything, settled down in a camp in the proximity of the market since August 2014. The governorate and the United Nations provided basic services such as shelters, water and sanitation, and schools. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) helped boost job skills and entrepreneurship through training. As they regain their livelihoods, they now show signs of recovery.

“The reconstruction of the souk, which we are inaugurating today, will help the displaced restart their lives, and is pivotal to building social cohesion in the 5-Miles neighbourhood,” said Lise Grande, the UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UNDP Resident Representative in Iraq. “With the hope of resuming normal life, many go on with their new economic activities in the camp’s environment,” she added.

UNDP is spearheading the UN support programmes to generate employment and income for the displaced and their host community, addressing potential competition on the labour market and the stress on camp neighbourhoods. Country-wide the UNDP’s livelihoods programme has reached to some 14,000 vulnerable people in 2014.

In Basra, vocational training in sewing, hairdressing, carpentry, plumbing, electricity, cookery and bakery, as well as short business courses, have bolstered entrepreneurship and job creation benefiting to more than 1,000 displaced people—with one third of the beneficiaries being women in 2015. This is especially important in that 63% of the camp’s households are headed by women and are in dire need of income.

The camp project is run by UNDP’s local partner, the Canadian Aid Organization for Iraqi Society and Rehabilitation (CAOFISR), in close cooperation with the Governorate’s Committee for Internally Displaced Persons.

"Without the United Nations, and particularly UNDP, it would have been difficult for Basra to support such a large number of internally displaced people," said Wameeth Alajwadi from the Governorate’s Committee for Internally Displaced Persons. "And we now expect these numbers to increase daily," he concluded.

Basra is home to at least 1,821 families or 10,926 internally displaced persons in 215 locations mainly in non-camp settings, who fled violence in Anbar, Babylon, Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salah al-Din. These numbers are increasing daily due to recent counter-insurgency operations in Anbar and Salah al-Din. (Source: IOM, April 2015).

The main agencies, which supported the establishment of the 5-Miles camp, are UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF, IOM, UNOPS and UN-HABITAT in their respective roles such as providing shelter, food and WASH. UNESCO and UNICEF have built the elementary schools now serving more than 400 children.


Areej Al-Musttaf, Programme Specialist, UNDP Basra

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