UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
IRAQ: Shortage of funds continues to hamper public services
MOSUL, 10 June 2003 (IRIN) - Local municipal leaders in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul say they feel abandoned as appeals for assistance to restore basic services to residents appear to have gone unheard.
"We have received very little help so far. We are thankful that the Coalition has paid salaries to civil servants, but we urgently need funds to restart social services. At the moment, we are relying on the kindness of people in the community who have donated their trucks to assist with garbage collection. But they cannot do that forever," the Mosul municipality director, Muwaffaq Qasim, told IRIN.
All along the streets of Mosul, the evidence of neglect is apparent. Since the end of the war, almost two months ago, the municipality has been unable to pay its workers. As a result, rubble and debris obstruct the flow of traffic, and street corners accommodate huge piles of rubbish.
We have not yet seen a deterioration in the health of the people, but we are afraid that if this situation continues like this we may have a serious problem on our hands. The priority must be to support the public administration in getting back to work," Qasim said.
As a stopgap, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has already embarked on a public works project aimed at jump-starting the rehabilitation of infrastructure to restore basic services.
For US $2 a day, some 100 local residents are employed to trim obstructive undergrowth on verges between the dual carriageways in the city centre and surrounding areas. Also, soaring summer temperatures increase the risk of fire.
The pay may seem small, but 18-year-old Abas Ahmad is grateful for the work. The sole breadwinner in his family, his earnings go towards supporting his parents and five siblings.
"For two months I have not been working. It was very difficult for my family. This work is fine for now. It is better than not having a job like many people in Mosul. But I am not sure what will happen when this job is finished," Abbas said.
The Cash-For-Work initiative is part of UNDP's broader Iraq Reconstruction and Employment Programme (IREP). "The IREP is designed to work closely with local communities and authorities to deliver humanitarian assistance in an effective way. The aim of the programme during the emergency phase of operations is to tackle the high unemployment, and at the same time improve the environment. Further on, we intend to branch out into projects which have sustained development as the primary goal," the IREP project manager for Mosul, Jan Kellett, told IRIN.
UNDP estimates that within the first six months the programme would create employment for some 250,000 people.
Aid agencies and NGOs have, however, acknowledged that while it is necessary to deal with the more immediate needs, the task of initiating long-term development may prove to be far more challenging.
According to UNDP, productive sectors such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing have in recent years witnessed a sharp decline, affecting mainly the middle- and low-income groups.
Between 1991 and 2000, the country experienced a dramatic drop in per capita income from $3,500 to $500. Additionally, hyperinflation, high debt (estimated between $60 billion and $100 billion) and an unemployment rate of 60 percent, indicate the severity of the current economic crisis.
The situation has also been worsened by two consecutive wars and 12 years of sanctions.
It is estimated that in the last 20 years, close to 1 million people have been internally displaced and had to settle in camps, where often living conditions are substandard and social services nonexistent.
"Any intervention to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq must look at socioeconomic recovery in a meaningful way. It is important to reverse the negative trends that have emerged in recent years," Kellett said.
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