WASHing back hope for the people of southern Iraq

In midst of a world-wide pandemic and continuous local water crisis, more than 20,000 people in the southern Iraqi governate of Muthanna benefit from hand-washing facilities and water access in their local health centers through humanitarian assistance.

Ali Risn
A child washes his hand in a hand-washing facility in Al-Muthanna Governorate
18 April 2021

Muthanna is Iraq’s second largest governorate in terms of geographical area. Located in the southern part of the country and made up mostly of desert and dry land, Muthanna has faced chronic water scarcity for years. For a governorate that depends largely on agriculture, this scarcity has pushed almost half of its  population below the national poverty line.

In addition to the lack of water, the quality of Muthanna’s water networks is very poor as a result of chronic underdevelopment and lack of maintenance. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for quality water and hygiene infrastructure on site in home and healthcare facilities became all the more urgent especially among Muthanna’s more remote rural communities.

UNICEF went to work. With the support of Australian Aid, UNICEF install 82 handwashing facilities in almost 50 health care centers, including centers dedicated to the treatment of COVID-19, cardiac patients, and pulmonological cases within two months.

The impact on the community was immediate.

 “Most of the children and parents here didn’t know how to wash their hands properly and how important it is to do so, especially during a pandemic.  I am washing my hands when I enter the health care center and after I leave it, and whenever I can. We haven’t had something like this before. I feel safer now”, explained Hadiya Abd Ugap, a resident of Muthanna.

20,500 people in Muthanna have benefited from the newly installed hand washing facilities so far. Building on the impact of its intervention in Muthanna, UNICEF decided to assess the capacity of all health care facilities across Iraq, including access to safe water, safe sanitation, safe management of solid waste, to see how it can replicate the success in Muthanna.