UNHCR builds new homes for Iraqis left homeless in attack

Making a Difference, 26 October 2009

© UNHCR Photo
Before and After: Workmen (left) renovate a damaged building in Taza; the finished house, painted blue, seen from the same viewpoint (right).

TAZA, Iraq, October 26 (UNHCR) Barely three months after a massive explosion ripped through Taza, killing around 90 people, most of the scores of destroyed homes have been rebuilt and business is thriving once more in the northern Iraq town's main market, which was heavily damaged.

The bombing was the worst attack in Iraq since March 2008, and the majority of victims were from the dominant Turkmen community. But, with the help of UNHCR and its partners, the town in Kirkuk governorate is recovering remarkably quickly from the outrage.

Immediately after the blast, UNHCR field staff visited Taza to assess the damage and to distribute emergency aid to the survivors. The team found that about 160 houses, mostly made from mud bricks, had been totally destroyed and some 400 damaged. As a result, around 3,500 people were left without shelter.

The refugee agency immediately swung into action, funding the reconstruction of 150 collapsed homes and the renovation of 73 shops and two other buildings in Shorja Market. The work was carried out by an Iraqi implementing partner as part of UNHCR's emergency shelter programme which has helped rehabilitate some 10,000 conflict-damaged buildings for refugees and internally displaced Iraqis and aims to double this figure in 2010.

"The aim is to mitigate displacement, encourage returns and build confidence in disputed areas," said one UNHCR official, adding that the programme focused on the most vulnerable families. Where possible, the agency uses materials procured locally and hires local labour to carry out the work.

The shops in Shorja Market were handed back to their owners in a simple ceremony attended by UNHCR staff and local officials on September 30.

Thirty-year-old Mohamed Ali was among an estimated 400 people injured by the bomb blast. The family breadwinner was evacuated for medical treatment in Turkey, where he spent his time fretting about his relatives. He was not convinced when they said an outside organization UNHCR was helping to rebuild their house.

When he finally returned home in mid-August, he was astounded to see the new one-storey house. "Had it not been for my elderly father sitting in front, I would have thought I was in the wrong street," he said, adding: "I have to send a thank-you letter to UNHCR."

Taza's Mayor Talib, who attended the hand-over ceremony last month, was also grateful for UNHCR's help. "Your intervention helped people who lost one or more of their family members," he told Daniel Endres, UNHCR's representative in Iraq.

Endres, who toured the rebuilt and renovated buildings, pledged that the refugee agency would continue "to assist those affected by the blast and help them settle back in their homes."

As of the start of September, UNHCR had helped more than 2,950 families (18,700 people) with shelter intervention, including members of local communities, internally displaced people and returnees from overseas or elsewhere in Iraq.

By Younis Ahmed in Taza and Maha Sidky in Baghdad, Iraq




UNHCR country pages

Iraq Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Iraq.

Donate to this crisis

CAR Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Central African Republic.

Donate to this crisis


One of the first things that people need after being forced to flee their homes, whether they be refugees or internally displaced, is some kind of a roof over their head.

Shelter for the Displaced in Yemen

The port city of Aden in southern Yemen has long been a destination for refugees, asylum-seekers and economic migrants after making the dangerous sea crossing from the Horn of Africa. Since May 2011, Aden also has been providing shelter to tens of thousands of Yemenis fleeing fighting between government forces and armed groups in neighbouring Abyan governorate.

Most of the 157,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Abyan have found shelter with friends and relatives, but some 20,000 have been staying in dozens of public schools and eight vacant public buildings. Conditions are crowded with several families living together in a single classroom.

Many IDPs expected their displacement would not be for long. They wish to return home, but cannot do so due to the fighting. Moreover, some are fearful of reprisals if they return to areas where many homes were destroyed or severely damaged in bombings.

UNHCR has provided emergency assistance, including blankets, plastic sheeting and wood stoves, to almost 70,000 IDPs from Abyan. Earlier this year, UNHCR rehabilitated two buildings, providing shelter for 2,000 people and allowing 3,000 children, IDPs and locals, to resume schooling in proper classrooms. UNHCR is advocating with the authorities for the conversion of additional public buildings into transitional shelters for the thousands of IDPs still living in schools.

Photographer Pepe Rubio Larrauri travelled to Aden in March 2012 to document the day-to-day lives of the displaced.

Shelter for the Displaced in Yemen

Syrians stream from their war-torn country into Iraq's Kurdistan region

Thousands of Syrians streamed across a bridge over the Tigris River and into Iraq's Kurdistan region on Thursday, August 15th. UNHCR Field Officer, Galiya Gubaeva, was on the ground with her camera.

Syrians stream from their war-torn country into Iraq's Kurdistan region

Iraq: Massive displacement from Mosul

In the past few days, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have fled fighting in the northern city of Mosul and other areas. UNHCR staff are on the ground to monitor the outflow and help those in need. The needs are immense, but UNHCR is working to provide shelter, protection, and emergency items, including tents. Many of the displaced left their homes without belongings and some lack money for housing, food, water or medical care. They arrive at checkpoints between Ninewa governorate and the Kurdistan region with no idea of where to go next, or how to pay expenses.

UN agencies, humanitarian groups, and government officials are coordinating efforts to do what they can to aid those in need. UN agencies are making an emergency request for additional support. UNHCR is hoping to provide emergency kits as well as thousands of tents. UNHCR and its partners will also be working to protect and help the displaced.

The exodus in the north comes on top of massive displacement this year in the western Iraqi governorate of Anbar, where fighting since January has forced some half-a-million people to flee the province or seek shelter in safer areas.

Iraq: Massive displacement from Mosul

Iraq: Breaking BreadPlay video

Iraq: Breaking Bread

Shareef fled to Iraq a year ago to escape the violence in Syria. He opened a bakery, which has done great business. When he heard about a new wave of displacement in northern Iraq in August, he decided to help those in need by providing bread.
Iraq: Moving to a New Camp in KhankePlay video

Iraq: Moving to a New Camp in Khanke

A new camp for displaced people is taking shape in the village of Khanke in Iraq's Kurdistan region, with the help of UNHCR and its partners. After weeks of uncomfortable living in the courtyard of an old public building, Chenar and her ethnic Yazidi family are looking forward to moving to the new facility.
Iraq: Massive UNHCR Aid OperationPlay video

Iraq: Massive UNHCR Aid Operation

The UN refugee agency is conducting a massive aid operation to assist some 500,000 Iraqis displaced by conflict in northern Iraq. It includes airlifts, and transport of aid by road and sea.