The ISIL conflict caused over six million Iraqis to flee from their homes to camps and other locations across the country. The fighting destroyed many homes and public infrastructure, including community, cultural and social centers.
For families returning, life was difficult. They lacked adequate infrastructure and facilities to feel at home. Especially for young people and children, they needed safe spaces for recreation, sports, and learning.
It is why residents of Baiji in Salah al-Din prioritized rehabilitating a public library and sports club when UNDP offered support. From there, the community came together to rehabilitate the Al Nadim Library and Ibn Al Naft Sports Club.
The Ibn Al Nadim Library (left) and Al Naft Sports Club (right) that was recently rehabilitated through a cash-for-work project in Baiji. Photo: UNDP Iraq
UNDP used a unique cash-for-work model – putting Iraqis in charge of their own rehabilitation while also providing immediate cash to boost household income. This included consultations with the community to prioritize infrastructure projects and locally hiring workers through a pre-determined criteria ensuring equal ethnic and gender representation.
Mahmood (left) and Omar (right) are coaches at the Al Naft Sports Club. Photo: UNDP Iraq
"Baiji was left devastated during the conflict. The city's sports club and stadium were severely damaged by airstrikes. Rehabilitating this community infrastructure has lifted our spirits and encouraged social inclusion," says Mahmood Saadon Al-Shamary, 39, a football coach at Al Naft Sports Club.
"The sports club will encourage young people to come together and create a sense of community," adds Omar Abdul Basit Saeed, 36, who is also a coach at the center.
During ISIL, the library was left damaged, with around 5,000 books looted and burnt. Today, post-rehabilitation, it is fully stocked with over 5,500 books. "The community did an excellent job of rehabilitating the building and restoring the furniture. Now, we look forward to receiving more students and visitors," says Omar Jassim Abd, librarian at Ibn Al Nadim library.
Around 96 workers, including 29 women, were hired from the community to rehabilitate the library and sports club, giving them a chance to build back their community. The rehabilitation for both centers was completed over 40 days (about 1 and a half months).
Through cash-for-work projects like this where communities are in charge, they gain skills and confidence while injecting immediate income into the local economy.