Syrian communities recover from dam disaster with help from Italy

News and Press Release
Originally published
Rural communities devastated by the collapse two years ago of part of the massive Zeyzoun dam in northwest Syria are rebuilding and improving their livelihoods with small loans and training through a UNDP initiative supported by Italy.
Water from the 140 foot high dam completely destroyed the village of Zeyzoun and damaged four other nearby communities, killing 21 people. The flood washed away more than 200 homes, farmers' livestock, schools and health clinics. It flooded 8,000 hectares of farmland and damaged irrigation and drainage systems serving another 17,400 hectares.

After a UN task force helped the Government assess damages, UNDP worked with local authorities on plans for rehabilitation, including repair of the dam and irrigation systems, setting up a small loans programme, and enhancing economic opportunities for women and their role in decision-making.

Mohammad Saied Akil, Governor of Hama province, expressed the Government's appreciation for the role of Italy and UNDP in the rehabilitation of the area and supporting sustainable human development there.

UNDP Resident Representative Ali al-Za'tari said: "This pioneer project aims to support local authorities to preserve sustainable livelihoods of the affected population through a pilot micro-finance scheme and capacity building."

Italy provided US$750,000 for the project, UNDP $50,000, and the Government $52,500.

The Social Welfare Society in the Hama region is manageing the loan scheme, which is based on a UNDP project in the northern Jebal el-Hoss region that established a network of village development funds. International and national UN Volunteers are assisting the programme.

The loans will enable residents resume or start small businesses to improve family incomes. The first phase, with a loan fund of $500,000, is helping nearly 1,000 of the neediest households.

The initiative is providing training and technical assistance to help local government manage the recovery process. It is also setting up a community development centre as a base for income-generating activities for women, production and marketing of dairy products, veterinarian training and care for newly acquired livestock, and financial and accounting training for loan recipients.

A survey found that women want literacy classes and vocational training in sewing and knitting, nursing, agriculture and animal husbandry. Classes are to begin later this year. The project also arranged a computer training course, training on drip irrigation and mushroom cultivation, and workshops on finance policy for small loans.

For further information please contact Kanan Khatib, UNDP Syria, or Nadine Shamounki, UNDP Communications Office.