When ISIL ruled, Iraq endured horrific violence. Thousands of people died. Women and girls were enslaved. Millions were forced to live under one of the most brutal regimes imaginable. More than 5.8 million Iraqis fled their homes, creating one of the world’s largest and most volatile humanitarian crisis.
Mosul was hit hard. Tens of thousands of people were forced to leave the city, and nearly a quarter of the almost 20,000 damaged structures were fully destroyed.
This ancient, culturally rich city became a shadow of its former self — dilapidated buildings lined the empty streets, debris piled up, and explosives hid under rubble.
In the old city alone, close to 8,000 structures were damaged, including the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, built in the late 12th century. The mosque held symbolic importance to ISIL — in 2014 it was used by the militants to self-declare their caliphate.
The destruction of Mosul’s public infrastructure system — including its electricity, water, sanitation and sewage system — is so extensive that it has been likened to damage sustained after the Second World War.
But progress is being made. Through its Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS), UNDP is working alongside the Iraqi government to facilitate the return of displaced Iraqis, lay the groundwork for reconstruction and recovery, and safeguard against the emergence of violent extremism.
The role of the local community in bringing Mosul back to life is crucial — thousands have been employed to remove rubble and debris from the streets, literally paving the way to rebuild their beloved, historic city.
Seventy-year-old Abdul Salam Yahia Qasem and his family left their Mosul home when ISIL took control. Once the city was liberated, it was impossible to return home — the street leading to their house was engulfed in rubble from neighboring houses, destroyed by airstrikes.
Today, the story is different. Many of Mosul’s streets in the Old City have been cleared. In the surrounding areas, electricity grids are starting to work, water systems are being repaired, schools are opening, health centres are functioning and people are getting back to work.
And only a few weeks ago, Abdul Salam was able to return home.
“I’m so happy to come home,” he says smiling. “I hope to bring the rest of my family back soon, too.”
Photos: UNDP Iraq/Claire Thomas
At the request of the Government of Iraq, UNDP established the Funding Facility for Stabilization in June 2015 to facilitate the return of displaced Iraqis, lay the groundwork for reconstruction and recovery, and safeguard against the resurgence of violence and extremism.
FFS currently has more than 1,900 projects in the 31 liberated towns and districts that UNDP has been asked to work, helping local authorities to quickly rehabilitate essential infrastructure and services.