Restoring damaged homes for Iraqi returnees and internally displaced people

Making a Difference, 30 December 2009

© UNHCR/W.Khuzaie
Building Bricks: UNHCR's emergency shelter programme has helped thousands of Iraqis.

MOSUL, Iraq, December 30 (UNHCR) In the summer of 2007, Amina Hussein and her family decided to sleep on the roof of their two-storey home in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul to escape the stifling heat.

The next thing she remembers is waking up in hospital and finding "my two daughters and husband beside me weeping." The 35-year-old soon realized why. A bomb had detonated near her house, killing her five-year-old daughter. Amina lost both her legs.

Her house in south-east Mosul's Al-Wehda quarter was badly damaged and the surviving family members decided to flee from the largely inter-ethnic violence that was shaking the city. A series of moves took their toll on Amina and the family ultimately decided to return to Al-Wehda.

Nothing can bring back her beloved daughter but today Amina and her family are once more living in their home, which was restored under a UNHCR programme funded by the European Commission (EC). The 6 million euro project has helped hundreds of Iraqi returnees to rebuild their homes.

"There were a lot of bad memories in the house and it was unsafe to live in this quarter of the city," Amina explained. "Yet it was our neighbourhood and it is better than the other areas we fled to." The renovation work was carried out earlier this year by REACH one of UNHCR's local implementing partners.

Ahmad Mohammed is another Mosul beneficiary of the shelter programme. The 40-year-old father of six used to sell vegetables on a street in an eastern district of the city until he was left paralysed when a suicide bomber blew himself up nearby. Ahmad's house was damaged in the blast.

Like Amina, he left for a safer area. "I had to avoid more explosions and save my children," he said. But he also found it difficult to adapt in areas where it was hard to find drinking water, medical care and proper shelter.

He returned to his damaged home late last year and was then selected by the UNHCR shelter programme. The builders started reconstruction of his house last October. "The first time I saw my renovated house [in late November], I couldn't believe it. God knows at that moment how secure I felt," Ahmad said.

The EC-funded project was launched at the beginning of this year and will continue through 2010. It consists of shelter rehabilitation, water and sanitation projects in shelter programme areas and support to two protection and assistance centres in Basra and Erbil which provide legal assistance to internally displaced people as well as returnees.

Work to repair or rebuild some 1,800 homes in seven Iraqi governorates was carried out in 2009. Seven water projects in southern Iraq have also been completed. "Support to displaced people and returnees will help pave the way to normality in Iraq, and will continue in 2010 and beyond," said Jobst von Kirchmann, head of Iraq Cooperation of the European Union delegation.

This project is part of UNHCR's emergency shelter programme for 2009 and 2010. Under the 2009 programme UNHCR has rehabilitated more than 10,000 shelters while it aims to double this figure next year. EC funds are covering 20 per cent of the total shelter costs.

Improvement of basic services such as water sanitation in shelter rehabilitated areas will also continue in 2010, as will UNHCR's network of protection and assistance centres in Iraq. "Needs are immense in Iraq. We are trying to assist as much as we can with the funds made available by donors," said Daniel Endres, UNHCR's representative in Iraq.

*All names have been changed for protection reasons

By Maha Sidky in Mosul, Iraq

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

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

Shelter

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.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

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

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to Iraq in July 2009 to offer support to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced within their own country.

During her day-long visit to Baghdad, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited a makeshift settlement for internally displaced people in north-west Baghdad where she met families displaced from the district of Abu Ghraib, located to the west of Baghdad, and from the western suburbs of the capital.

Despite the difficulties in Iraq, Jolie said this was a moment of opportunity for Iraqis to rebuild their lives. "This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives."

UNHCR estimates that 1.6 million Iraqis were internally displaced by a wave of sectarian warfare that erupted in February 2006 after the bombing of a mosque in the ancient city of Samarra. Almost 300,000 people have returned to their homes amid a general improvement in the security situation since mid-2008.

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

Iraq: The Plight of the YazidisPlay video

Iraq: The Plight of the Yazidis

Tens of thousands of people, including ethnic Yazidis originating from the Sinjar area, have been forced to find shelter in schools and unfinished structures across northern Iraq since fleeing their homes. The UN refugee agency has been trying to help, opening camps to provide better shelter.
Iraq: The Plight of the YazidisPlay video

Iraq: The Plight of the Yazidis

Tens of thousands of people, including ethnic Yazidis originating from the Sinjar area, have been forced to find shelter in schools and unfinished structures across northern Iraq since fleeing their homes. The UN refugee agency has been trying to help, opening camps to provide better shelter.
Iraq: Preparing for Winter in DohukPlay video

Iraq: Preparing for Winter in Dohuk

Efforts are under way in Syria, Iraq and neighbouring countries to prepare refugees and the internally displaced for winter. But UNHCR remains deeply concerned that a $58.45 million funding shortfall could leave as many as a million people out in the cold.