During the heinous takeover of large swaths of land in Iraq to ISIS terrorists during 2014, Duhok governorate has since been faced with taking in a majority (approx. 60%) of refugees and IDPs combined who are seeking protection in the safe haven that is Kurdistan. The impact on various communities in Duhok was significant, whereby existing vulnerable groups were fraught with more pressure than before. The Duhok governorate — with a population of more than 1.4m people -- was faced with an influx of 650,000 IDPs and refugees, totaling more than a 46% increase in resident population.
There became an immediate need to mitigate inevitable strains correlated to the influx of IDPs while also maintaining a higher standard for displaced persons. Rwanga Foundation was compelled to act by creating a setting where displaced families would have more than a bare shelter to their name. Rwanga used the term “community” to inspire brighter ideas for how people are better enabled to regain a sense of normalcy and ownership after traumatic events.
Rwanga Foundation filled the need at a crucial time (June-July 2014) to alleviate the pressures placed on Duhok governorate, including the city of Duhok. There are a total of 1,150 schools in Duhok, while 640 schools were occupied in some capacity by IDPs and refugees prior to the start of school in autumn of 2014. Rwanga Foundation’s decision, in accordance with the local governorate administration, enabled 14,400 Yazidis to leave public and private spaces, and into a community especially suited to the needs of IDPs and refugees.
Generally, in order to enable effective camp management and therefore create measurable impact, a range of organizations offering services and programs to the population need to be present. Therefore Rwanga Community is advanced by, and hosts, a number of organizations including Action Contre la Faim (ACF), Barzani Charity Foundation (BCF), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, UNICEF, KRG Health Directorate, KURDS, Mines Advisory Group (MAG), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Harikar, Qandil, Un Ponte Per and WADI.
Rwanga Community currently offers two schools, KidZone (including a library, arts studio, library, music room and computer lab), two parks, a center for women and health center with surgery and labor facilities. The above mentioned assets all coalesce to form a caring environment that provides important services and benefits for residents.
Both GIZ and UNICEF have established separate schools in the community — one permanent 18-classroom school with prefabricated units and another multi-classroom school respectively. Other main elements of the community contributed by partner organizations comprise the community center for women and a health center, which were also funded by GIZ.
Working in-sync are Rwanga’s independent contributions and projects inside the community aim to create an inspiring place where youth have a manifold of recreational and creative activities. From sport facilities to an arts studio, they are a short walk away from each other, centralized within the community’s planning. Rwanga recently finished the landscaping for a park to also improve the quality of living and to provide a peaceful green space which everyone can enjoy.
Importantly, Rwanga Community is situated on a rural plot of land which contains substantial and continuous undeveloped and semi-arable land. This aspect creates a strong potential in the future for a level of sustainability within the parameters of the community; IDPs and residents with existing agricultural skills and knowledge, together with NGOs/IOs, will have the ability to benefit and utilize the community’s land resources. In fact, organizations working in Rwanga Community have already begun to hire community residents. Lastly, IDPs were employed by a local contracting company to build the cabins and shared structures when Rwanga initiated the construction phase of the community. Other local contractors in the surrounding area were brought in to do the excavation and grading.
Rwanga Foundation’s Community project, along with assistance and coordination with the government, NGOs and IOs, have successfully initiated the next standard for organized IDP/refugee settlements, while affording the best sense of normalcy and comfort to IDPs possible. Innocent and vulnerable peoples who have been forced from their homes and displaced should always have the opportunity to live in a dignified way until they return to their homes and places of origin.