A normal view in Mosul despite the slow reconstruction after the war

After years in the displaced persons camps, Ghazvan Turki returned to a normal lifestyle by renting a house in Mosul, northern Iraq. But amid failing public services and economic woes, everyday life remains difficult for the fortysomething and her 12 children.

Five years after Iraq’s declared victory over the Islamic State (IS) group, Mosul, once hailed as the jihadist “capital”, is rebuilding as best it can, even as many of its 1.5 million people suffer from insecurity.

Here, workers are installing iron bars for the foundation of the new bridge.

Cafes and restaurants have since reopened, but state hospitals are still destroyed, with many buildings left with half-off roofs or bullet holes, a testament to the devastating fighting and aerial bombardment that allowed Iraqi forces to retake the city in 2017. international coalition.

Acknowledging “progress” in reconstruction, Mr. Turki called for “job opportunities for families with no income to improve their living conditions.”

Farmer turned taxi driver, doing odd jobs. This is not enough to make ends meet in Nineveh province, where unemployment affects one in three workers and 40% of the population lives in poverty.

“To cover half of the family’s needs, we have to borrow and go into debt, then we pay,” says Mr. Turki, wearing a traditional keffiyeh.

– “Crowded schools” –

Originally from the village of Rabia, Mr. Turki moved to the outskirts of Mosul in 2020 and shared his one-story house with his brother.

He complains about “overcrowding of schools, 60-70 children in each class”.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which has helped 100,000 people in Mosul this year, has seen “increasing unemployment, significant dropout and limited economic opportunities,” says Noor Taher, head of communications.

If “restructuring continues,” three grievances persist: “under-resourced schools, overworked teachers, and lack of jobs.”

On December 9, 2017, Baghdad declared victory against IS after regaining territory lost in 2014. We will have to wait until March 2019 to see the collapse of the radical organization in neighboring Syria. In both countries, the reconstruction challenges are still huge.

In Mosul, the authorities are working on several “strategic projects” “to better serve the citizen”, assures the mayor Amin al-Meemari.

But he needs more funding: despite building 350 schools in two years, he says, it will take a thousand to end the “suffocation” of the sector.

“There is a significant shortage in healthcare,” he adds, stressing the need to “build more hospitals” and reintroduce “specialties” such as cardiovascular surgery or cancer treatment.

“Mosul used to have all these things,” he complains.

– “Soul of Old Mosul” –

In November 2018, 26-year-old Bandar Ismail founded the cultural cafe “Bytna” (Our House) in the war-ravaged old city, a few steps away from the iconic al-Nuri mosque under construction.

“By opening this cafe, we tried to revive the spirit of old Mosul, attract residents and bring them back to their neighborhoods,” he recalls. “At first it was difficult economically.”

“People laughed and told us + who will come here +. The whole area was destroyed, no one lived there, probably two families.”

Now, around him, customers are sipping tea or Turkish coffee, while others are smoking hookah. In 2021, the institution that organizes music nights and artistic events received a visit from French President Emmanuel Macron.

In the neighborhood, bakeries and cheap restaurants have started operating again. “There is more stability, more security,” adds Mr. Ismail.

“The economic situation in Mosul remains catastrophic for many families,” the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said, citing an “alarming outbreak” of child labor.

About 90% of surveyed households “have one or more working children,” assures the NGO, after interviewing 411 families, as well as 265 children. About 75% of them work in “informal and hazardous work, garbage, scrap metal collection or construction.”

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