In line with #SDG17, aspiring to strengthen development partnerships, UN-Habitat has successfully mobilized complementary resources for the transformation of the neighbourhood of Al Baker, located on the eastern bank of the River Euphrates in the town of Heet, Anbar Governorate.
During the conflict with ISIL, over 5 million people were displaced from their homes. Following military actions to liberate these communities, many people could not return to their houses due to extensive damage or destruction and were forced to find temporary homes in congested displacement camps, rented or crowded accommodation with relatives, or unfinished buildings.
With the aim to encourage the sustainable return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and enhance living conditions and livelihoods in conflict-affected governorates, back in 2019 the European Union partnered with UNDP and UN-Habitat to implement local recovery projects in five targeted communities, including the town of Heet. Through the implementation of a set of impactful recovery projects, UN-Habitat managed to gain a strong foothold in the area of Al Baker West and establish an excellent relationship with the authorities of Heet. This helped to secure in mid-2020 a complementary development partnership with Alwaleed Philanthropies focused on activities aimed at mitigating COVID-19 transmission and enhancing community resilience in Al Baker East.
Between these two projects combined, UN-Habitat has rehabilitated 180 war-damage houses; renovated a primary school; created a new park and two sports facilities; upgraded and extended potable networks serving over 600 houses, supporting water supply to 4,125 people; and upgraded seven health facilities, including Heet’s General Hospital, to protect some 130,000 people among health personnel and community members in the current pandemic crisis. Throughout its projects, UN-Habitat has created over 6,500 working days for Heet residents in construction, civil works and landscaping, as well as offered vocational training for 120 unemployed youth. In addition, UN-Habitat engaged Iraq contractors, community groups and non-governmental organizations creating opportunities for synergies and capacity building. The team has also organised “soft activities” such as sports activities, children's activities and planting campaigns.
Through these interventions, UN-Habitat has contributed to a comprehensive revitalization of this poor neighbourhood on ‘the other side of the river’ so to speak. The result of the projects has not only provided improved living conditions and access to basic infrastructure, but residents have increased sense of dignity, safety, security. Female headed households specifically highlighted the importance of solid walls and gates to protect them and their children. Furthermore, children now have a safe space to go and play, and just ‘be’ children. Safe homes and safe places for children to play have become even more critical since schools were closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and suddenly children were at home all day. Lastly, the projects have contributed to nurturing even stronger ties between local authorities in Heet, specifically the Mayor's office, the relevant Directorates, and the Municipality, to ensure the long-term sustainability of its planned initiatives with the objective to reach the most vulnerable people.
"I am grateful for UN Habitat's rehabilitation developments in Heet. They had a great impact on restoring stability for my family. Not only did the rehabilitation restore my house, but it also provided me with a new job. By getting a job in the ongoing rehabilitation processes, I can now support my family and take care of their basic needs."
Mr. Muhammad Wasmy Farhan, a beneficiary of UN-Habitat's rehabilitation program.