Building community resilience in a former ISIL strongholdMar 18, 2020
Unlike many people who fled Mosul when the so called Islamic State (ISIL) took control of the Iraqi city in June 2014, Azam, 55, and his family stayed put. For the family of six – including two boys in secondary school and two girls in primary school – hunkering down was the best option.
But although they survived ISIL’s control, which ended in December 2017, their community has not yet fully recovered from the three-year siege. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome is repairing water, sanitation, and hygiene services that were neglected during ISIL’s occupation.
To help families like Azam’s move on, People in Need has been working to rebuild drinking-water networks in the Al Numaniya neighborhood. So far, the project is having the desired impact. “Many families sold their homes in Al Numaniya due to the lack of water,” says Azam who is retired and now owns a local factory for producing jams in West Mosul. “However, since PIN rehabilitated the water network, families are [returning] to sufficient and clean water. This is helping people remain in their homes and easing their daily life.”
From water pipes to behavioral change
The water initiative was part of a larger project aimed at restoring a sense of normalcy in the war-ravaged region. One of the biggest undertakings was a behavioral change campaign to introduce new hygiene habits. Already this has led to vast improvements in the health and welfare of local families. Azam’s young girls, for example, previously suffered illnesses caused by drinking polluted water. But after the training sessions, which included instruction on how to make water safe to drink, the problems have vanished.
“People in Need is the first organization to come to our neighborhood and provide us with awareness messages and education on such topics,” Azam says. “We always thought we were doing things correctly, but after PIN introduced this useful information, we found that we did not have the right knowledge, or even worse, we were doing things wrong.”
Among the most practical pieces of advice was how to clean water tanks. Previously, most families in the neighborhood did not clean their tanks, unaware that failing to do so increased the risks of consuming dangerous pathogens. PIN’s sessions increased local awareness on these issues, and now beneficiaries are cleaning their tanks twice a year.
Before the trainings, “we did not clean our tanks for at least three years, but after learning the harm caused by not cleaning them, we cleaned them!” Azam says. “We relied on the steps and guidance shared during the PIN session, and then I shared the information with my relatives, friends, and family so they can benefit as much as I did."
Now I can protect my family
Safa’a is another program beneficiary. For her, one of the most important skills gained during the sessions was learning about healthier eating habits – including how to safely prepare food for her children. “I wasn’t aware of the risks of reheating food in a wrong way and the danger it might cause to my family’s wellbeing,” she says. “But now I am following the guidelines for safely reheating food and I am happy with that.”
Another skill introduced during the sessions was how to make homemade remedies, such as oral rehydration solution to treat diarrhea. “Now I can protect my family, and help when one of the kids [is unwell],” she says.
All of these initiatives are being conducted as part of the “Supporting Resilience for host communities, returnees, and internally displaced persons in Iraq” project, which is funded by the EU Regional Trust Fund MADAD the Czech Republic Development Cooperation. Teams of hygiene promoters are conducting awareness sessions, visiting residents, organizing awareness Facebook campaigns or hosting events. PIN will reach some 25,000 people in Mosul. In total all project partners will reach 100,000 people.
The project is implemented by PIN, ACTED, Welthungerhilfe (WHH), and Polish Humanitarian Action. PIN, ACTED, and WHH are members of Alliance2015, a strategic partnership of eight leading European humanitarian and development NGOs that have collectively delivered 202 million euros in aid to Iraq.