DRC Sanitation project improves quality of life for conflict-affected residents in Iraqi townThe last time Nureddin’s house was flooded by sewage, his children and pregnant wife were forced to run up to the second-floor of their modest home in the town of Dibis, in Iraq’s Kirkuk Governorate. The culprit was a blocked drain outside the house that had caused a similar scene several times before, resulting in thousands of dollars in damage and a potential health hazard.
A prolonged economic crisis and decades of war have taken a toll on Iraq’s aging sanitation infrastructure, affecting both the host community and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Dibis and across the country, where residents have experienced first–hand the effects of living with poorly maintained sewage systems. The addition of over 385,000 displaced persons across Kirkuk has further exacerbated poor sanitation conditions and existing infrastructure in areas now hosting numbers well above the pre-conflict population.
Nureddin, a husband and father of three, recalled the smell coming from a blocked drain outside his home: “It was really terrible and you could smell the sewage throughout the house.” More than the smell, however, Nureddin remembers the nights his young family was forced to flee their home from the mix of rainwater and sewage flooding the low-lying neighborhood.
“When the sludge came all the way into the house, we had to get what we could and run out in the middle of the night,” he said. “The kids ran to the second floor before we managed to get them out.” On one occasion, Nureddin’s wife was nearly nine months pregnant with their third child when sewage came rushing in again. “Thank God no one got sick,” she said. While the family was able to reach safety each time, they say the cost of lost assets now totals close to $10,000.
According to the head of Dibis’ sewage directorate, Wirya Amir, flooding as a result of a poorly maintained system is not new. “This has been a significant problem for a very long time,” he said. “We get many complaints, especially in the winter when it rains more.”
With support from USAID, DRC completed a sewage rehabilitation project that improved conditions for some 500 houses in Nureddin’s neighborhood, and is expected to correct the flow of sewage in the whole town. Workers contracted by DRC replaced manhole covers and focused on cleaning sediment and debris from the drains that were the main cause of flooding.
“We were so happy to see the workers come fix the drain that we ran out to serve them tea and breakfast,” Nureddin said. “We were really suffering, but now, we don’t have to trudge through the mud up to our knees.”
DRC’s WASH activities in Kirkuk continue to focus on improving sanitation and water supply as well as promoting safe hygiene practices in communities across the governorate.