There is very little information coming out about Iraq’s postwar areas. The Iraqi media says little and the western press even less. NGOs are the only organizations putting out reports on these places. REACH released an assessment of Anbar’s Fallujah district. It found that almost all the displaced have returned, war damaged was mostly repaired, but there is a lack of services and jobs which is hindering the revival of the economy.
Fallujah was the very first city to fall to the insurgency in January 2014 five months before Mosul. Two years later it was freed by the Iraqi forces. The fighting for the district led to mass displacement, but by the start of 2019 almost all of the 530,000 displaced (IDPs) had returned with only 10,358 still without their homes. The International Organization for Migration has found that areas that were liberated the earliest have had the largest number of returns.
Those areas have also had more time to rebuild, but the economy is still lagging. In Fallujah most of the war damage has been repaired by the government, the United Nations and NGOs. 22% of housing still needed work. Major issues remain. One is a lack of jobs which is holding up reviving the economy. For instance, REACH did a survey and found that the number one priority was jobs at 63%, and only 33% of adults were working. For the young, 18-29 years old, the situation was even worse with a 76% unemployment rate. A major reason was that the main industries have not been rebuilt. Investors also said they had no interest in funding those businesses. That left the government as the largest employer, but only 28% of workers were in the public sector. In fact, the state stopped hiring when the war started. The result is that people are depleting their savings and borrowing money. 83% of respondents in REACH’s survey said they were in debt. This same situation is found across Iraq’s post-conflict areas. Many companies have not been able to come back to pre-war levels, and there is no effort to help the economy from either the private or public sector. That means this situation will remain the same for the foreseeable future.
Services are also not up to par. REACH found that they are below pre-war levels. Only 18% of respondents said they had access to health care. There are two main public hospitals and 20 health centers in Fallujah city, but in the rest of the district these facilities are not available. Schools are also struggling. The costs for an education have increased and families are being asked to pay the salaries of teachers, there are not enough educators and supplies and classrooms are overcrowded. Electricity was only available for an average of 12 hours per day. Water and waste had similar problems. Iraq has always struggled with providing services. For them to be worse than 2014 adds mores struggles for the day to day lives of the residents. It makes recovering from the war all that much harder.
Fallujah is probably better off than other areas that went through the war because it has had more time to rebuild. Issues persist with the economy and services. Those do not look to be recovering soon because there is no aid coming from the government. That leads to the bigger issue that the Mahdi administration has no reconstruction strategy.
International Organization for Migration, “Return Index, Findings Round Three – Iraq,” March 2019
REACH, “Fallujah City Area-Based Assessment, November 2018-January 2019,” 1/31/19