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Addressing water deficiency concerns in Iraq

Iraq, June 7, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Salar S. Dawod/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Amina and three of her children in their home in the village of Kuna-Kamtar, Iraq. Photo: Salar S. Dawod/Mercy Corps
  <span class="field-credit">
    Salar S. Dawod/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Amina's oldest daughter, eight-year-old Ghofran, washes clothes in the village. Photo: Salar S. Dawod/Mercy Corps
  <span class="field-credit">
    Salar S. Dawod/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Two of Amina's children practice hand-washing at a Mercy Corps-sponsored health and hygiene training. Photo: Salar S. Dawod/Mercy Corps

For years, suffering and tiredness was Amina's lifestyle. In 1994, she and her family were forcibly moved away from their ancestral village of Kuna-Kamtar by the Iraqi army. She was displaced until 2003, when the old Iraqi regime collapsed and her family was able to return home.

Thirty years old and illiterate, Amina's life has been hard so far. Even today she struggles, spending most of her time in the village doing housework and taking care of her four children, who range in age between three and eight years old. Her husband is a driver, frequently on the road.

Amina described to me, at length, what happened when the Iraqi army attacked her village in 1994: "The village were destroyed. There were no houses left, just ruins," she said. "The only well, a very old and shallow one, was filled in by the authorities of the old regime using stones. They wanted to prevent the villagers from being able to water the sheep and cattle that were grazing around that area.

"After coming back, villagers started cleaning the well and begun building their own houses," she continued. "But that's not easy to do when you have a family and have to take care of children. We were suffering during those hard days."

One of the hardest things was getting water for her family's needs.

"In order to get some water, we were going 150 meters (almost 500 feet) down into the valley, bearing heavy pots filled of water and then returning back home over the hill. We had to do this repeatedly, more than 20 times per day, to cover our needs. It was so hard,” she explained.

She continued with a small smile on her face. “It was so harsh, especially in the hot season. At night we worried about providing water for tomorrow.”

That situation lasted for three years, until a humanitarian organization drilled a 30-meter-deep (about 100 feet) borehole near the village. This lightened their burden, but Amina and her neighbors still had to carry water pots on their heads as part of their daily routines.

But then, recently, Mercy Corps intervened to make life easier for the villagers of Kuna-Kamtar. We cleaned the deep well, installed a submersible water pump, provided a new generator and connected the water system with the main electricity lines near the village. Mercy Corps also built a sunshield to protect the new water system.

The biggest improvement has been, however, piping the deep-well water system to villagers’ houses, where it is kept in new water tanks. Mercy Corps helped plan and install this system, as well as purchasing and connecting the water tanks.

"It’s like the difference between hell and heaven," Amina said. "Today there is really no suffering at all. The water tanks on our roofs are always filled with water, thanks to Mercy Corps.”

And that's not all Mercy Corps has brought to this village; Amina and her husband have also received a hygiene kit and attended a Mercy Corps-sponsored health awareness session with their children, who took part in a hand-washing practice.