The road to recovery: A water tank brings new life after conflictFor families who fled the ISIS occupation of their town in northern Iraq, the construction of a water tank is a vital lifeline and the first step to rebuilding their community; creating the promise of a safe future and helping them to return home.
32 year-old Younis can remember exactly the day he left his home in northern Iraq.:
“We fled the village when it overrun by ISIS. It was a very difficult journey. I left the town with my wife and five children and travelled to the Syrian border, then on to Turkey. When we finally arrived we didn’t have enough money to rent a house, so we went to the refugee camp in Gaziantep, to live in a tent. We didn’t have enough money and we had to work very hard to earn enough to survive.”
Unable to return home
Along with Younis and his family, many of the town's inhabitants fled during the ISIS occupation, displaced within Iraq or seeking refuge in Turkey. The town was the final stronghold of ISIS in Iraq and the last town retaken by coalition forces in 2017. Ongoing fighting meant that those displaced during the initial occupation were unable to return home for several years:
“We stayed as refugees in Turkey for four years. Every night when I went to sleep I remembered my homeland. I thought of my country, my house being destroyed,” says Younis.
The village sustained significant damage during intense fighting between ISIS and coalition forces, with many houses completely destroyed and vital infrastructure badly damaged. With their houses destroyed and without access to basic services such as clean drinking water, families like Younis’ remained in limbo, unable to return home.
A damaged water tank
In late 2018, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) was the first humanitarian organisation to reach the area, to assess the damage and provide humanitarian assistance. DRC was able to work with the local Department of Water (DoW) to repair and rebuild the main water tank for the village.
Prior to the coalition forces offensive, the water tank was the main storage facility, providing drinking water not only for the town but also the surrounding villages. The elevated tank was hit by a missile in late 2017 which all but destroyed the entire structure, leaving the residents with limited access to clean, safe drinking water.
Hasim Abdulqadir Othman, a DoW employee, explains the impact of the damaged water tank:
“We were unable to reach some places with water at all, because there wasn’t enough water pressure. We had to use a shift system, giving water to each village in turn. This meant that villages were only getting water once per week. It wasn’t enough.”
"Water means life"
DRC replaced the destroyed iron water tank with a sustainable steel design. The new tank is able to supply safe, clean drinking water to more than 24,000 people in the town and 4,000 families in nine surrounding villages. The steel construction of the tank is designed to avoid rust and leakages, ensuring that it will continue to provide water for residents in the long term.
For families like Younis’, the construction of the new water tank not only means they have access to safe, clean drinking water, but it is a sign that, after many years of suffering through conflict and displacement, their home town is starting to rebuild:
“The situation in our area is very good now, many things changed since our return. Most of my friends and neighbours have returned home, the rest I hope will do soon. Before we were getting some water, but it wasn’t enough. Now the tank installation we have enough water for our lives. Water means life.”