Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Slow Progress in Battered Falluja

While some compensation has been issued to those who lost their homes in the US attacks, locals say much more remains to be done.
By Daud Salman

Five months after the American-led military fought insurgents in Falluja, high school student Wakid Isa is still living in a refugee camp and attends classes in a tent.


“I worked hard to come back with my family in order to be able to resume my studies but I was surprised when I found my school and our house was destroyed,” Isa said. “We don’t even have toilets.”


The heavy fighting in Falluja in November 2004 destroyed large parts of the city in western Iraq, and rebuilding has been very slow in spite of the US pumping 200 million US dollars into the reconstruction effort.


Residents are still unable to move easily between the city’s ten sectors and the city looks semi-deserted. A curfew is still in place for more than ten hours each day, and IWPR noted few signs of reconstruction on its April 13 visit.


Engineer Juma al-Dulaimy, owner of a construction company, said that the repair and reconstruction of the education sector was a priority as much of the fighting took place around primary and secondary school buildings – some 65 of them were damaged.


He said that only a quarter of the damaged schools have been rebuilt to date.


Primary school teacher Mohammed Ahmed told IWPR, “We are suffering as the students are still taking lessons in tents.


“The classes are not regular and we don’t have any health or educational equipment. And some of the schools that are still in a reasonable condition are being used by the American and Iraqi forces as bases.”


In addition to the schools, some 30,000 houses were damaged in the fighting and nearly 5,000 were completely destroyed. Also in need of repair are an estimated 8,500 businesses, 60 mosques and around 20 government offices.


Furthermore, power plants, water treatment stations and transport links were also affected by the conflict, according to Basil Mahmoud, an engineer and director of the Falluja Reconstruction Project.


“We are doing our work by restoring basic necessary services like electricity, water and sewage systems and we are rebuilding some schools and government offices,” Mahmoud said.


As a result of the violence in Falluja, some 200,000 residents fled and wound up in refugee camps or other temporary housing. Only around a quarter of the city’s displaced residents have returned.


“Our houses were completely destroyed and now we are living in a camp in al-Habanya, ten kilometres from Falluja, in hard conditions,” said Isa Sabah al-Dulaimy. “We have no idea when we will be able to go back home.”


The Central Committee for the Compensation of the People of Falluja last month complied a list of 200 names of those whose homes had been completely destroyed. Each was paid 2,000 dollars compensation, from a 100 million dollar US military fund slated for recompense and reconstruction in the city.


The committee is continuing to compile names of people whose homes were damaged in the fighting.


“The amount of money that we have received is only ten per cent of the real value of our house, and I’m unable to rebuild it with this amount,” said Abu Rashid al-Mohammedy. “But still I’m very lucky because there are thousands of people waiting to receive [their compensation].”


The US government has also earmarked a further 100 million dollars for Falluja through its Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, part of the 18.4 billion dollars set aside by Congress for rebuilding Iraq.


But acting industry and minerals minister Mohammed Abudllah, an engineer, told IWPR that local committees in Falluja estimated that the total cost of rebuilding and compensating residents would reach almost 500 million dollars.


Meanwhile, many aid organisations, such as the Iraqi Red Crescent, IRC, are finding it difficult to help Falluja residents because of restrictions on entering the city.


“We are afraid that epidemics and disease will spread this summer due to the lack of drinking water and drainage equipment,” said IRC aid worker Ferdos al-Abadi.


Daud Salman is an IWPR trainee in Baghdad.