Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, 31 January 2017 - UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has supported the restoration of the electricity grid and undertaken sanitation projects in Saadiya and Jalawla sub-districts in Diyala Governorate. The work has played an important role in stabilising basic infrastructure so that thousands of displaced families can return to the two areas which had been briefly seized by armed groups more than two years ago and were extensively damaged.
Under the project, which began last August, UNHCR and its local partner YAO contributed to restoring electricity by installing 10 transformers in each location, while the government provided the installation and running costs. UNHCR also provided two voltage regulators to enable the Jalawla water plant to be restarted.
Two garbage trucks and containers were also provided and UNHCR organised a one-month clean-up campaign with different groups in the communities. Spare parts for five heavy duty trucks were also provided by UNHCR to clear debris and waste in Saadiya.
The projects were made possible through funding of 441,500 Euro from the Government of Italy.
Saadiya and Jalawla sub-districts were taken by armed groups at the end of 2014, resulting in the displacement of around 20,000 families who fled to Khanaqin and surrounding areas. Some families began returning to their homes in 2015 after the two sub-districts came back under government control. However, many chose not to return due to severe damage to key infrastructure and private property, estimated at 50% in Saadiya and 75% in Jalawla. The restoration of basic services, such as electricity, and the re-opening of schools and hospitals in the sub-districts has helped to encourage the return of thousands of families to their original areas.
“Restoration of basic public services such as providing electricity and resuming garbage collection is crucial to ensuring the possibility for Iraqi displaced families to go back to their homes” said Mr. Marco Carnelos, Italy’s Ambassador to Iraq. “Diyala badly needs increased attention and support from the international community and UNHCR has been greatly attentive in identifying urgent priorities there”.
“UNHCR’s support is always appreciated by the government and the people, as the UN is close to us.” said E.H. Muthana Ali Mahdi Al Tamimi, Governor of Diyala. “UNHCR’s support was just what we needed, especially in these difficult economic times. We need to work together to support the people”, he added.
“Restoring basic public services in Diyala may seem just that – basic – but it can make the difference between remaining displaced or coming home” said UNHCR’s Representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo.
“We are happy to play a small part to rebuild and help reintegrate Iraqi families returning to their homes in Saadiya and Jalawla”, said Mr Geddo.
Italy is a major donor to UNHCR in Iraq, providing over 2.29 million Euro ($2.51 m) in funds in 2016. Italian support helped to provide emergency relief kits for 1,600 families fleeing conflict in Falluja last year, while another Italian donation of 1.5 m Euro ($1.63m) supported UNHCR winter assistance programmes in camps for families displaced due to conflict in Mosul.
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