Three years after fierce fighting to retake Mosul from ISIS terrorists, the city has seen widespread destruction. Yet, a glimmer of hope emerged from he horizon after UNDP had tasked two local companies with the reconstruction and rehabilitation of markets and houses of Mosul.
A beam of light
The two companies will be responsible for the clearance of explosives and rubble as well as the recovery of bodies, paving the way for life to gradually go back to normal.
With the help of 150 workers and 30 equipment, the ruins of old streets and destroyed houses in Mosul have been cleared.
Muthana Turkey, an official in one of the two companies, said the company conducted clearance operations in Mosul and Bab al-Saray markets as well as Ghazi and Khaled ibn al-Walid streets.
Despite these efforts, Mosul residents have complained about the local government's slow action in providing basic services after the city was recaptured in July.
This inaction has forced youth and women from Mosul to take part in clearance efforts. Khattab al-Safar, an activist from Mosul, said there is deliberate disregard for reconstruction and rehabilitation of Mosul's Old City, adding that all services are provided to the left bank of the city.
The target of such step is moving life to the left bank of Mosul and leaving the right bank of the city uninhabited. The left bank will be a nucleolus of a new city that attracts investments and generates revenue to officials, he noted.
In the northern side of the Old City, al-Maash Market, known as the Market of the Poor, has been reopened. But it was reopened thanks to the efforts of the city's residents.
Abu Mohamed, a merchant in the market, said the market's doors are now open to receive the poor, adding that it is a result of residents' efforts not the government's.
In October, it was reported that 300 stabilization projects are already underway in Mosul. Many started even as the fighting was continuing. 10,000 people of Mosul are working on stabilization, so that residents can return home safely, with dignity, and build back their cities.
Mosul's Old City paid the price for ISIS' last stand. Streets are now knee-deep in rubble from destroyed homes. The few high buildings of six or seven stories have been blasted hollow, reduced to concrete frames. Shopping centers and office buildings are pancaked slabs.
Almost all that is left of the 850-year-old al-Nuri mosque, blown up by ISIS terrorists as they fled, is the stump of its famed minaret.
Mosul is the worst hit by ISIS occupation and the military operation to recapture it. The UN estimates 40,000 homes there need to be rebuilt or restored, and some 600,000 residents have been unable to return to the city, once home to around two million people.
All five bridges crossing the Tigris have been disabled by airstrikes, forcing all traffic onto a single-lane temporary span linking east and west.
"The responsibility to pay for reconstruction falls with the international community," Abdulsattar al-Habu, the director of Mosul municipality and reconstruction adviser to Nineveh province, where the city is located, told ABC News on Thursday.
If Mosul is not rebuilt, he said, "it will result in the rebirth of terrorism."
But funding is far lower than what Iraq says it needs. So far, stabilization has received some $392 million in contributions. The United States has given the lion's share, some $115 million. Germany is the second biggest donor at $64 million. The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are also contributing.
Overall, Washington has contributed $265 million to reconstruction since 2014, on top of $1.7 billion in humanitarian assistance in Iraq.
The UN alone has requested $707 million for stabilization programs in western Mosul, $174 million in eastern Mosul and another $232 million to stabilize other areas of Iraq.
The UN is repairing some infrastructure in nearly two dozen towns and cities around Iraq, but funding for it is a fraction of what will be needed. As a result, much of the rebuilding that has happened has come from individuals using personal savings to salvage homes and shops as best they can.
This comes as the local government say the slow pace of reconstruction of infrastructure and provision of services are due to lack of funding.
Unfortunately there is funding shortfall. As a local government we cannot provide the best quality of services when the funding is insufficient, Nineveh governor Nawfal al-Akoub said.
In general, the right bank of Mosul and the Old City are the worst hit and need additional funding. The government in Baghdad has to increase its support, he added.