Construction of 10 Wells and reverse osmosis systems in Najaf - Fighting a devastating shortage of water
On June 16th 2014, the jihadist rebel group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) captured the city of Tal Afar, located in north-western Iraq in the Nineveh Governorate. The outbreak of fighting and cruel violence, also against civil groups, resulted in an exodus of people who fled the city and neigh- bouring villages to save their lives.
Our field engineer and commissioner for family affairs, Hadeel M., talked to Qadriya age 55 and Ma'eda aged 50, two sisters from the Tal Afar region who were forces to flee from their village dur- ing the night as they heard the sounds of missiles and rockets hitting their neighborhood.
Before that fateful night, they were living peacefully together with their five brothers along with their wives and children. As they belong to the ethno-religious group of the Shabak, a Muslim minority settled in northern Iraq, they had to leave the region before the arrival of ISIS, who does not accept them as adequate Muslims. Hence, since their occupation, ISIS conducted a number of attempts against the Shabak community.1
The tears are streaming from Qadriyas eyes when she speaks about the flight:
“We are 15 people with children and I do not know how we managed to flee by my brother's car. Due to the suddenness and urgency, we did not take any- thing with us: No identification papers, no food and no water. At first we took the wrong way and that almost killed our lives. But then a person guided us back onto the right path and we escaped before facing the gunmen.”
After two days the family reached Baghdad and from there, continued their journey to Najaf. Once there a new phase of suffering began. Qadriya explains:
“Since five months we are staying in one of the provisional shelters. You cannot imagine the amount of misery and distress that we experience living in this place.”
It is true that the family, together with many others, escaped from the cruelty and brutality of ISIS but it is too much to say, that they live a happy and secure life now.
The two sisters and other displaced families report on extreme poverty and they feel neglected by the government who is not helping them. The refugees are not welcome in the new region and the resident population is scared of them and the problems they might bring. When Hadeel entered the shelter of the sisters, she had
to cover her nose with a handkerchief. The stench emit- ted from the small room inhabited by a dozen people with six children was obnoxious, despite the ongoing attempts to sterilize the room, the hygiene situation was catastrophic. The children were continuously scratching themselves as a result of an outbreak of lice and many of the inhabitants were suffering from other diseases, such as eczema, asthmatic coughing and diarrhea.
We questioned Ma’eda on how they can live in such con- ditions and she explains:
“We receive aid from the Holy Shrine in Najaf and some rich families. Also the United Nations has provided and continues to provide us with a lot of assistance like food, clothing, heat- ing devices and tents.”
The sisters were very happy to learn that RIRP will dig wells and install reverse osmosis systems to provide them with fresh drinking water. The government provides each displaced family in this region with 50 litres of water every second week. In comparison, the average water consumption in Germany is: 122 Litres per person per day.2
It is obvious that the water provided is not sufficient for a family with 15 people. The result from drinking contaminated water includes outbreaks of diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition and many childhood diseases. To combat this critical shortage of potable water, RIRP will build 10 water wells and water treatment plants. This way we will be able to provide many families with adequate access to water and hope to minimize the devastating effects of the shortage. Additionally, we will install 45 shower units, undertake sewage collection to reduce contamination and execute hygiene awareness trainings.
For Hadeel the meeting with the family was a stirring experience. She says:
“I do not lie when I tell you, once I was staying in their shelter I felt like I am one of them. I challenge anyone sitting with this family for a period of one hour. The wish to submit anything that serves for these poor people becomes intense. Bring a smile on the face of a child and plant some hope in them. Hope for a better fu- ture.”
The children and the elderly are the ones who suffer the most from the bad conditions; they have nothing to do with the political situation, with the fighting or the violence. Their only mistake was to be born and living in a time during the tyranny of ISIS and a lack of compassion. We do our best to improve the circumstance of their everyday life though building wells and providing fresh, clean drink- ing water. Still, there is so much more to do.
This project is a collaboration with the German Humanitarian Assistance.