SWEDO works in partnership with the World Food Program to build assets based on the precious water resource in Southern Governorates of Iraq: the Thi Qar Governorate of Iraq is host of the unique agro-ecosystem known as the Mesopotamian Marshes. A flooded grassland areas that used to be the largest wetland ecosystem of all Wester Eurasia, and center of a culture dated back over 3,000 years. Such unique ecosystem was partly destroyed following the Gulf War in 1991: as the Iraqi army fled under heavy attack and suffering casualties in the tens of thousands, a large group of Shi’a soldiers rebelled. When allowed to use helicopters within Iraq under a ceasefire agreement, Saddam Hussein redirected his elite Republican Guard units to crush the rebellion: over 100,000 people died or were “disappeared” into one of the 200 mass graves uncovered after 2003. The rebels surviving the brutal repression found refuge in the inaccessible marshes, that were also called the “Iraq’s Sherwood Forest”. Following the fall of the regime, the marshland partly recovered, but recurrent drought, destroyed infrastructures and tribal conflicts over natural resources caused a new type of displacement, with thousands of people leaving their homes due to lack or degradation of water resources. The victims of this forced migration have been formally acknowledged by the United Nations as “water internally displaced people” or water-IDPs.
Without international assistance, what once was one of the most unique and life-ridden ecosystems, is destined to a path of social exclusion, poverty and conflicts between communities that are forced to compete for resources becoming more scarce since they are affected by threats that are of magnitude far beyond the communities resilience and coping capacity. SWEDO and the World Food Program are partnering to target the root causes of vulnerability and recurrent crises. To do so, the program in Thi Qar Governorate targets 1,155 direct beneficiaries that will receive payments to work to build assets for their communities, including 58 Km of water infrastructures (water canals and irrigation systems) and rehabilitate the date palm production with over 1,000 palm date trees in what is the national capital of dates production.
To ensure that vulnerable community members have full access to the benefits of the new assets is the key mission of SWEDO, shared by local Authorities and the World Food Program, to build more resilient communities. In building more resilient communities, the social inclusion of the most vulnerable community members, such as elders, widows, women and people with disabilities, plays a key role: a society where the most needy are left behind is a society that pose the basis for more conflicts. Working with remote communities requires the use of innovative methods to identify needs and take action. Following the impact of the COVID-19, access to most vulnerable people is even more challenging and timely access to information is fundamental to save lives. SWEDO has developed an integrated system to provide real time access to the situation on the ground. By using mobile data collection tools the SWEDO team on the ground is able to daily assess the key indicators of risk, impact and outcomes, and generate a real time common operating picture that is immediately available online for the project partners
While strengthening project decision making, transparency and accountability, the innovative approach aims also at empowering local groups, especially women, that with their involvement will help to make the detection of early risks even more locally contextualized and able to respond to undetected needs of women and most marginalized groups