Visit to Qahtania in Sinjar, Ninewa

A page from the Iraq Diary

Prasad Rasal
UNICEF Iraq/2021/Amir
03 February 2021

It was still dark outside, and my smartphone was telling me that the temperature was one degree but feels like -3 degree Celsius. My UNICEF colleagues and I were getting ready to go to the Qahtania sub district in Sinjar, which was home to around 7,000 families before the town’s Yezidi community was forced out by in 2014. today, Qahtania only has 383 families, and another 1000 are expected to return over the next few months. My UNICEF colleagues and I were to see how the families are faring and how we are able to help them. UNICEF is supporting the returnees by trucking in drinking water and distributing water tanks, prefabricated latrines and showers to families there, and is working with its government partners to rehabilitate the water network so that community can have a permanent supply of safe water.

It has snowed lightly the day before our arrival, and I began to see the white flakes on top of Sinjar mountain as we got close to the area. Soon after we entered the town, I met with Hasan and his family. They had returned to Qahtania a month ago and was still readapting to being back in their village, after an absence of six years. Hasan had been living in a camp for the displaced with 17 members.  Speaking to him, I could see hope in his eyes, despite his many wrinkles that bore testament to the hardship he went through. Like many other returnees here, Hasan was able to install a water tank provided by UNICEF on the roof of his home.

I also life in the town. I couldn’t help but think of my visits to Hawija in Kirkuk almost three years ago and how deserted Hawija was, with shops either burned, empty, or without any doors. This time, I could see houses have been recently rebuilt and some security personnel on the ground. But what I noticed the most was how full of boys and girls Qahtania was. Some of them were born in IDP camps, but on that day, there were all happily playing outside, unaware of the struggles surrounding them.

While this was my first visit to Qahtania due to the Covid19 situation, it won’t be my last. I left with a sense of gratitude to our partners, supporters and volunteers without whom we would not have been able to bring safe drinking to Qahtania and making a difference in the lives of Hasan and his community.

UNICEF thanks the Government of Canada for supporting water trucking and the transportation of assets, and the Government of Germany for supporting the rehabilitation of Qahtania’s water system

Prasad Rasal is a WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) specialist. He’s based in UNICEF’s Duhok office in the Kurdish Region of Iraq and has been living in Iraq since 2014.