UN-HABITAT’s activities in Iraq, received a boost when the Government of Japan announced today that, along with other UN agencies, three of UN-HABITAT’s projects will receive earmarked financial support as part of the US$ 360 million deposited by the Japanese Government into the UN Development Group Iraq Trust Fund on 26th March 2004.
The three projects that are to benefit from the funding involve the rehabilitation of basic living infrastructure, reconstruction of education facilities, and Phase II of a community rehabilitation project. This commitment to UN-HABITAT by the Government of Japan follows an earlier contribution, in January this year of US $8.8 million for a post-war school and community rehabilitation projects in southern Iraq.
Speaking at the 12th Regular Session of UN-HABITAT’s Committee of Permanent Representatives in Nairobi, the Japanese Ambassador H.E. Mr. Makoto Asami, commended UN-HABITAT for its work in Iraq stating that the Japanese Government hoped to continue working with the organization on the ongoing rehabilitation of the country.
“I am grateful for the generosity of the Japanese Government. The commitment of these funds goes a long way towards the rehabilitation process in Iraq,” said Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT. “Through these projects, the capacities of local construction industries will be improved, which can only help the country's reconstruction. At the same time, job opportunities will be created for ordinary Iraqi citizens from local communities.”
The initial focus of UN-HABITAT’s Iraq Programme is in south of the country. Five weeks after receiving the first instalment of Japanese funding, a total of 9 schools had been targeted for rehabilitation and many more are on the drawing board. On March 17th, the first contract was awarded for rehabilitation of a secondary school that accommodates 250 students. Another 4 schools have just been put out to tender and yet another batch of 4 schools are being assessed, in consultation with beneficiaries and local authorities.
The existing housing stock and social infrastructure in Iraq is in poor condition especially because of neglect, conflict and economic sanctions, which has been exacerbated by post-war looting. Housing shortage has become even more critical because of a steady influx of returnees and refugees. Schools have deteriorated to the extent that over 70 per cent require urgent rehabilitation. Given the high rate of unemployment in Iraq, one of the key objectives of the project is to generate employment opportunities. Another objective is to enhance the capacity of local contractors. To this end, the project is being implemented through small local contractors using labour-intensive methods of construction. As the project unfolds, local contractors are being encouraged to register with UN-HABITAT and over 34 of them have already done so.
To speed up the project, UN-HABITAT is also in the process of engaging NGOs as implementation partners. Steps are also underway to start work on the community rehabilitation component of the project in consultation with local authorities, community groups and NGOs, especially to identify most needy beneficiaries. Highly vulnerable families such as those headed by war widows, the elderly and the handicapped are target beneficiaries.