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[Iraq] 801 Shelters Upgraded: End-of-Year 1 Report

2019.9.24

イラクコラージュ(英語)

By the end of August 2019, Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) will have wrapped up year 1 of the “Peace Winds Shelter Upgrade for Syrian Refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq” project. With funding provided by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), and partnership with Peace Winds America, Peace Winds upgraded 801 refugee shelters from September 2018 – August 2019.

Background
The goal of this project was to enhance the living conditions of the most vulnerable Syrian refugee households living in camps in Erbil Governorate through the provision of more durable shelter. The four Syrian refugee camps in Erbil Governorate are: Kawergosk, Darashakran, Basirma, and Qushtapa.

The location of the four Syrian refugee camps within Erbil Governorate in red.

The location of the four Syrian refugee camps within Erbil Governorate in red.

In 2015, UNHCR launched a “tent-free camp” initiative to ensure that refugees live in more durable, semi-permanent shelters. Living in tents for extended periods of time undermines the safety, health, and dignity of refugee families, especially considering the harsh environmental conditions in northern Iraq that includes snow, rain, high winds, and temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. As of July 2019, 26% of Erbil’s Syrian refugee population (30,935 people) live within the four camps. Since the launch of the initiative, progress in upgrading the tents has been steady, but many of the refugees still remain living in substandard conditions.

Tent w/ octagonal base before the upgrade

Tent w/ octagonal base before the upgrade

Tent w/ rectangular base before the upgrade

Tent w/ rectangular base before the upgrade

Additionally, unemployment in Kurdistan had reached 14% by the end of 2016 and unemployment among Syrian refugees was over three times higher – Syrian refugee unemployment in the three urban areas of Duhok, Erbil, and Sulaymaniyah was estimated to be 47%. Fully 37% of the Syrian refugee population in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) live below the poverty level.

Therefore, Peace Winds proposed this two-year project with two (2) objectives:

  • 1. To improve the living conditions of 1,593 vulnerable Syrian refugee households who live in substandard shelters in camps in Erbil
  • 2. To provide income generation opportunity to refugees in camps in Erbil through cash payment for shelter construction activities
  • For year 1, Peace Winds originally targeted 720 shelters to upgrade through 14,280 total work-days of remunerated skilled and unskilled labor. However, due to changing conditions within the camps and market fluctuations, we were able to upgrade an additional 81 shelters by the end of the project period for a total of 801.

    Key Activities – Assessment & Beneficiary Selection
    Peace Winds kicked off field activities with field assessments and beneficiary selection on October 21, 2018. First, we received a roster of refugee households living in the camps from camp management. Then, using a scoring rubric developed by UNHCR and shelter sector partners, Peace Winds scored the households from 0-100 – the higher the score, the more vulnerable the household. Next, we shared the results with other stakeholders including camp refugee representatives, camp management, and UNHCR to receive confirmation from their ends on the accuracy of our results. This confirmation is important because of Peace Wind’s commitment to our Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) policy which holds us accountable to the people we mean to assist. We believe holding ourselves to this standard leads to more meaningful beneficiary participation and better programming.

    Staff conducting field assessment

    Staff conducting field assessment

      Sharing results with stakeholders

    Sharing results with stakeholders

    Key Activities – Agreement with Beneficiaries
    After Peace Winds engineers prepared the bills of quantity and technical specifications for the standardized upgraded shelters, we held focus group discussions (FGD) and orientations throughout December and January to explain the project to the target beneficiaries and obtain their feedback. A total of 85 people participated in the FGDs and a broad demographic was represented: 71% women and 29% men, 1 person with a disability, 4 pregnant women, and 39 of the women were the head of household. During the FGDs and orientations, a majority of beneficiaries expressed a desire to add an extra room in their shelter. Our engineers considered and approved this flexibility in design, albeit those extra costs would be borne by the beneficiary.

    Focus group discussion

    Focus group discussion

    Orientation session

    Orientation session

    At the first round of orientations, Peace Winds staff gave an overview of the project to the beneficiaries including Peace Winds’ mandate, project goals, feedback mechanisms, etc. The second round detailed the technical aspects of the project. This was a self-building project where shelter owners were responsible for the actual construction works under the guidance and supervision of Peace Winds engineers and construction assistants. Each shelter owner was also responsible for hiring their own skilled and unskilled labor. If they needed help finding laborers, Peace Winds obtained labor from the pool of available refugees listed at each camp’s job center. The beneficiaries then signed an agreement certifying that they understood the project and each party’s responsibilities.

    Key Activities – Distribution of Materials and Cash-for-Work
    In late December, Peace Winds advertised an open invitation to bid and selected a contractor to provide the construction materials to the beneficiaries. Our engineers outlined eight (8) stages to complete an upgrade. At the completion of each stage, the shelter owner would receive the next stage’s materials and the laborers would be paid. Our field monitors meticulously tracked each stage and ensured prompt payment to the laborers. Each cash payment was distributed pending ID verification and signed receipts from the laborer, shelter owner, and Peace Winds staff to minimize risk of improper payment. Construction works began in Basirma Camp in late February.

    Contractor delivering construction materials

    Contractor delivering construction materials

     Beginning stage of upgrade

    Beginning stage of upgrade

    Laying bricks

    Laying bricks

    Setting roof frame

    Setting roof frame

    Finishing the interior

    Finishing the interior

    Laborers lining up to receive payment

    Laborers lining up to receive payment

    Key Activities – Inspection & Handover
    Upon completion of all upgrade stages, Peace Winds staff conducted a final inspection to ensure shelter was properly constructed. UNHCR and camp management were then notified of completion and handover.

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    Final Thoughts
    This project:

  • • upgraded 801 tents into semi-permanent shelters improving 3,712 beneficiaries’ lives
  • • generated short-term income for 2,345 laborers
  • • was given a satisfactory rating from 99% of laborers surveyed
  • On our monitoring trips, beneficiaries reported being very happy with the results of the project. They shared their stories of escape from conflict and their difficult situations in a foreign country. Because this project laid much responsibility on the shelter owners, it enjoyed broad buy-in as the beneficiaries felt they were equal stakeholders. The cash-for-work component was also popular as people in need of income received prompt payment for an honest day’s work. Peace Winds’ inclusive approach and transparency in program design laid the foundations for improvement of living conditions for many camp refugees.

    Peace Winds will continue this strategic approach into the second year of this project as PRM recently approved our year 2 proposal. As of now, Peace Winds plans on upgrading an additional 639 substandard shelters starting September 2019. We would like to thank all our supporters for enabling us to carry out our mission to provide humanitarian assistance to those people whose lives have been threatened by conflicts and natural disasters.

    Please support Peace Winds Japan’s activities in Iraq and around the world by sharing this report via social media and by donating through this link: https://peace-winds.org/en/donate.html. Each contribution is a brick in rebuilding people’s lives.