Over the past years, Iraq has witnessed a steady decline in security impacting almost all aspects of the lives of Iraqis. This has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history. According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, today almost 90 percent of all Internally Displaced Persons/IDP’s in the Middle East and North Africa region live in Iraq and Syria, with a staggering 2.3 million people in Iraq alone fleeing the threat of ISIS (the self-styled Islamic state known by the acronym ISIS). The UN Human Rights Office estimated that about 5.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance including food, shelter, clean water, sanitation services, and education support.

The situation is further exacerbated by high unemployment, which is expected to increase even further due to conflict and displacement. A decline in economic activity has meant lost jobs, and collapsing public services has led to frustration and an erosion of trust in the state along with a loss of a sense of belonging. The lack of security has meant a disruption of social cohesion, if not continual displacement in search of safety. The scale and speed of the displacement has made it extremely difficult for the government to deliver quality services, especially in areas newly liberated from ISIS, where the infrastructure destruction is most severe.  The dramatic plunge in oil prices coupled with non-functioning state institutions, has deepened the crisis impacting the humanitarian situation, economic sustainability and human development capacity.

The breakdown in the provision of basic infrastructure and public and social services has been devastating for the entire population living in recovered areas that are back under the government’s control. Rebuilding these areas, and addressing the prevailing social inequalities in those regions remain a priority to the Iraqi Government. The process of recovery and reintegrating newly liberated areas is a challenge that must be met by the government itself, the local population with the support of the international community.

…calling for action

In response to these pressing needs, a US$350 million World Bank project which was prepared in an efficient and expeditious manner will support the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure and restoration of public services in recovered municipal areas. State owned companies will lead the response to immediate emergency repairs, and together with local private contractors will engages in the reconstruction and maintenance of about 430 kilometers of roads and 19 bridges. This will lead to the creation of much needed temporary jobs for skilled and non-skilled laborers. Similarly, opportunities for women’s employment will be generated especially in areas focusing on reaching out to the communities in the targeted municipalities to facilitate communication between citizens and the government.

This emergency operation is in recognition of the importance of engaging in fragile environments where both risks and complexity are higher, and meeting the needs of residents and returning IDPs are vital for restoring peace and stability. The government faces the task of rebuilding not only the damaged infrastructure and basic services, but also the social fabric.  In their view, improving living conditions by restoring services is good but helping prepare plans for the future is equally important. It gives people hope for a brighter future. The Bank is focused on supporting the government in meeting this dual challenge of reconstructing and restoring services to liberated urban areas while laying the foundations for longer-term development, focusing on trust-building and social cohesion. Improving living conditions by restoring and expanding bulk water supply, sanitation, transportation, electricity services, solid waste management and rubble removal, as well as assisting individual households with the repair and reconstruction of their homes and providing assistance in re-establishing basic health care services will contribute to restoring and entrenching stability in Iraq while laying the foundation for longer term development.

This article was first published by The World Bank’s Voices and Views blog. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Ibrahim Dajani, a Palestinian / Jordanian national is a Senior Operations Officer, member of the MNA Transport Sector based in the West Bank and Gaza Country Office (in Jerusalem). 

Image: Students attend class on the first day of the new school term in Baghdad October 22, 2014. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani.