Iraq: Rehabilitation of compact units and water networks in Diyala and Wassit

Since November 2004, Eberhard Wissinger coordinates the WatSan programme for the Diyala and Wassit governorates in Eastern Iraq. Based in the neighboring Amman / Jordan for security reasons, he collaborates with Maysoon Al Shukri and Ghaswan Adnan Nouri from the HELP- Baghdad branch as well as their teams of logisticians, engineers and technicians. The programme budget of above 1 million US Dollar is funded by UNICEF and the Swiss Directorate for Development and Cooperation (DEZA). Halfway through with the programme implementation, Eberhard analyses the situation.

The present period in Iraq is marked by the pre- and post-elections activities and the constitution of the newly elected Iraqi government. In spite of earlier hopes, terrorist and oppositional attacks still continue, and even the most basic living conditions of the Iraqi population steadily deteriorate in most regions of the country. After more than two decades of totally imbalanced development in Iraq, the technical infrastructure, environment and social services are largely ruined from neglect and a notorious absence of maintenance.

One of the major problems in Iraq is the supply of clean fresh water. During the last twenty years, the ousted governmental setup uncared for maintenance and monitoring of the principal utilities services and networks including of the most vital freshwater supply and sewage disposal systems. In addition to this absence of sustainable maintenance operations, the results of looting and sabotage added and finally led to a total collapse of essential parts of the country's water supply and the sewage evacuation and disposal infrastructure. Deficient sewerage networks often flood into the surface waters and contaminate freshwater sources. Water treatment and filtering are no longer operational or in many cases even abandoned. Old installation became largely inefficient as existing filters have no longer been cleaned or changed since years, and chemical treatment is sporadic. This extensive malfunction generated severe negative impacts on the public health situation, and namely water borne diseases are no longer merely a threat but an ever increasing and regrettable fact and indicator for the decline of the most basic living conditions and the quality of life of the entire population. The every day number of victims mainly among children and the weak are more than alerting!.

As a result of this neglect and the defective freshwater supply the present activities of HELP concentrate on water treatment and potable water supply networks in remote rural areas.

During the initial time period of the present emergency programme - until mid 2005 - the working and operating conditions in the country and particularly in the project areas remained extremely hazardous and dangerous. In consequence of repeated threats and attacks various programmed field activities in Diyala and in Wassit had repeatedly to be temporarily suspended. Day-to-day monitoring of the security concerns constitutes a central challenge and led to the introduction of new and adapted managerial means and functioning. HELP was held to adjust its capacities and to accordingly streamline its implementation strategy and efforts to compensate for accumulated time loss and frequent re-staffing of its field personnel; fear and frustration withheld increasing numbers of even highly motivated staff to carry on. With more than 50 days behind schedule a compensating time extension of the original programme period of one year seems now to be inevitable, if the original aims and objectives shall be met.

HELP international staff operates from its interim Amman base quarters. This managerial unit closely coordinates with the also Amman based UNICEF Iraq Support Center. The operational implementation capacities and national personnel for administrative and logistical services remained in Baghdad. The above mentioned exceptional management conditions and functioning made it necessary to adjust human resources, logistical and material means and, consequently, related financial resources.

National WatSan technical and logistical key staff like Maysoon and Ghaswan continue pendular traveling from Baghdad to Amman, for coordination and reporting, exchange of views and experience as well as for receiving oriented and pertinent advice and instruction.

As for today, the security situation in Iraq in general and more particularly in the governorates of Diyala and Wassit did not consolidate; in the contrary, it seems to worsen. At present, HELP had to withdraw its entire field staff from the Ba'aqubah and Mandali zones in Diyala. It now redeploys concentrated capacities to strengthen the efforts on projects situated in the south-eastern part of the governorate of Wassit. The programmed continuation of the works in the governorate of Diyala shall be continued during the forthcoming months. Inchallah.

HELP maintains close contact to international security advisors and observes security briefings and advice. For the 'worst case scenario', efficient means of communication and transport are available and are kept in a permanent standby function, thus to be ready for operation, if need will be.