Iraq

Four Years After Islamic State Group: Families in Mosul Still Languish in Poverty

The effects of COVID-19, the worsening economy, the ongoing drought and the recent camp closures have compounded an existing humanitarian crisis, resulting in Mosul remaining a shell-shocked city with destroyed infrastructure and limited income generating opportunities.

“We will rebuild our city

with our own hands”


Four years since the Islamic State group was driven out of Mosul by Iraqi forces and an international coalition, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis continue to languish in poverty and displacement.

Wednesday 21 July marks the fourth year since the city was returned to government control. Thousands of families in Mosul remain traumatised, living in damaged housing and struggling with joblessness. While the international community has provided significant investment in Mosul, reconstruction efforts need to be stepped up to further support the people of Mosul to be able to fully recover and rebuild their lives.

In recent weeks, Norwegian Refugee Council and Oxfam have spoken to some of the people in Mosul. In their own words, they tell us how they are rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of the devastation and destruction.

Farah*

I’m the person who is providing income for my family. My husband is jobless. He has been looking non-stop but has had no luck.

Read caption Farah* outside her salon that she opened after Mosul retaken. Photo: Zaid Al-Bayati/Oxfam

“Before ISIS, our social norms in Mosul would not allow me to go out. When we were liberated, I broke that norm. I went out and started working. The experience that I went through made me stronger and want to go and earn my own income.

During ISIS we used to eat whatever we could get. My son wanted to help us so he started selling sandwiches. ISIS took him and lashed him. He was just a child trying to help his family. Now my son is afraid to go out; he has been traumatised. My daughter wants to become a police officer. I encourage her to always pursue her dreams. Just because she is a female doesn’t mean that she can’t be anything she wants in the future.

 

Read caption Farah* inside her salon. Photo: Zaid Al-Bayati/Oxfam

The hair salon was all I wanted. I work hard in here. People love my work. Now I’m planning to get a tattoo machine and learn how to provide tattoos. Four years since ISIS left, my children are still scared to be outside, and they are still not able to continue their education.

Previously, my husband was not okay with me having my own job but after ISIS, everything changed. I gained more independence as now society finally realizes that women can also be responsible for bringing in income to support their kids and family”

Ahmed*

We need to rebuild what has been destroyed

Read caption Ahmed* inside his shop. Photo: Zaid Al-Bayati/Oxfam

“I’m 21 years old and live in Hamam Alil. Our family lost the coffee shop that my father used to own. We were forced to sell it. After ISIS we could not keep the coffee shop because the land owner wanted to sell the land.

Now we have a new shop for hardware and tools. I usually take care of the shop and my brother takes over whenever I need to go to school. This shop is our main income as my father cannot work anymore. He is 60 years old. I don’t mind studying at night after I close the shop as there is no other option for me to earn income and take care of my family.

Ahmed* inside his shop. Ahmed lives in Hamam Alil district in Ninewa government. After ISIS defeat Ahmed is resuming his education and at the same time, he is managing a shop for hardware tools to provide income to his family. Photo: Zaid Al-Bayati/Oxfam

With the pandemic and the recent dollar raise it has been hard to secure an income, especially now that all materials like motors and power units are more expensive. This shop has helped us a lot.

Monthly, we get 150,000 IQD (about $100), but it’s not enough to pay rent and buy food and other essential needs for my family. I go to school and then directly to this shop. I barely get five minutes rest or a lunch break.

The biggest challenge is all of this destruction. Most people left Hamam Alil to Mosul city so there are not many services anymore. I’m still sad about the coffee shop as it belonged to my father since the 80s.

I hope that people can come back and start a new life. It is hard but we have to move on with our lives. We need to rebuild what has been destroyed and if the government is not doing anything, we will rebuild our city with our own hands.

 

Read caption Ahmed* showing the destruction that ISIS left since 2017. Photo: Zaid Al-Bayati/Oxfam

Over six in ten owners of businesses reported lost assets during the conflict. Of those that did over 80% said their premises had sustained damage or destruction, two-thirds lost stock, while half lost furniture, equipment, or tools.


 

Samira*

Now I sell whatever I have to provide basic needs for my children. I barely can buy them new clothes.

Read caption Samira* inside her temporary house as she can no longer afford rent. Photo: Zaid Al-Bayati/Oxfam

“I used to live in Hamam Alil. I wanted my children to go to a good school so I couldn’t stay there. There is no future for my kids there. My family all came to Mosul. Here I stay in an unfinished house owned by my relative. 

When ISIS took over Hamam Alil, I feared for my children and left my home. I went to a camp and stayed there for about two to three years. In the beginning, it was okay as we used to receive aid every day but then it got less and less over time. 

My husband married another woman and left me and my kids in the camp.  I left the camp because the aid stopped. My children needed to continue their education as there was no school in the camp.

I’m still trying to provide my children with the best I can. I do not have an income, but I will manage.  I survived ISIS and stayed in a camp. The experience made me depend on myself only. 

There are fewer job opportunities than before. I hope there will be a permanent solution for this situation. I do not want just to be given cash. I need a job and a house so I can take care of my children."

Read caption Samira* preparing food for her children in the kitchen. Photo: Zaid Al-Bayati/Oxfam

A recent NRC assessment highlighted that nearly a quarter of the surveyed populations have no education with only 55% reaching basic primary level


 

Ibrahim*

My wife and I will never stop believing there will be a better day coming. My children need to learn resilience and positivity from us.
Read caption Ibrahim* inside his house. Photo: Zaid Al-Bayati/Oxfam

"I remember clearly the day when the military operations started to retake Mosul. It was 4:30 p.m. 

Before ISIS I used to work as a construction worker earning 25,000IQD, (about $17), every day. My children used to go to school and life was more stable than today. 

When ISIS took over, I stayed at home most of the time.  We hosted 15 families for a month. We ran out of most of our supplies. There were days that we had to eat dried bread with water. Sometimes I did not eat for two to three days and only drank water. 

During the military operation to retake Mosul, my children used to play in the living room near the door that led to the outside. One of the neighbour’s children was chatting to my daughter on the front door. Then suddenly a rocket fell literally on the front of the door. My neighbour’s child died from the explosion. Now, all of my kids have permanent injuries. One is completely paralysed. 

I gathered myself and went to the hospital. It was too late for my daughter to survive and my oldest son couldn’t get proper treatment. Eventually an NGO helped to take the shrapnel out of his spine, but it was too late to recover his ability to move. 

When I came back to my house after about 8 months; it was burned and destroyed. I lived with my neighbour for a few months until I was able to repair the damage. 

Since then, I resumed my work as a construction worker, but the daily wages are lower and when the pandemic hit most of the construction work stopped. Now I am lucky if I work two days a week. What I’m earning monthly is enough for only one meal per day and one month’s rent. 

I need to resume my life even if there has been so much change in the past years. I am proud that I keep going forward. I lost my daughter and my children have marks that will always remind them of what happened. I always tell them that these bruises will only make you stronger. One day they will be responsible for their own communities and family and I want them to be ready."

Read caption Ibrahim* inside his house taking care of his paralysed oldest son. Photo: Zaid Al-Bayati/Oxfam

*Names changed to protect identity

NRC and Oxfam have been supporting families in Mosul with cash assistance, grants to start businesses, repairs to schools and teacher training, access to water, support to gain civil documentation and more.