Local authorities in Iraq’s southern city of Najaf, 200 km south of the capital, Baghdad, are allotting pieces of land to displaced families from outside the province as well as to some residents.
“We’ve allocated a huge area of land stretching to the west of the province. The residents of Najaf, who have been living in abandoned government buildings since 2003, have the right to own these lands, while displaced families from outside Najaf can use them temporarily," said Ahmed Abdul-Hussein Duaible, spokesman for the governor of Najaf.
“Each family will be granted 100 square metres, which is likely to be increased. Three committees have been formed to follow up procedures for implementing this project, which is due to finish next summer," Duaible added.
Local residents will be able to build permanent houses on the land while those who have been displaced to Najaf from other areas can build temporary shelters. At present, it is not clear how many housing units will be built on the Najaf land but the local authorities will provide all the construction material and bear the cost.
According to the provincial office of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS), about 10,000 families, almost 60,000 individuals, are living in abandoned government buildings and public parks. They have been assisted by the local authorities, international NGOs and local philanthropists. The director of Najaf’s Red Crescent branch, Dhia Zowain, said only 4,200 families would receive winter material (including blankets, lanterns, pots and foodstuff) as the Red Crescent had run out of such items.
The sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites has ravaged Iraq since February when a Shiite holy place in Samarra was blown up. The violence has increased since then, claiming hundreds of lives and displacing thousands more to areas where their respective sect holds sway.
In March last year, Mohammed al-Mousawi, a 32-year-old Shiite minibus driver, fled the mixed province of Diyala, about 60 km northeast of Baghdad, and has since been living in a tent with his five family members in one of the city's parks.
“We are shaking here [because of the severe cold] under this wet tent and we can't stand it any more. We really appreciate this initiative although it came too late. They should have started it last summer to get people prepared for winter," said al-Mousawi.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions