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Devastated Iraq seeks $90bn for reconstruction

  • Published at 08:56 pm February 12th, 2018
Devastated Iraq seeks $90bn for reconstruction

Iraq needs nearly $90 billion to rebuild after three years of war with the Islamic State group, officials said Monday, with large parts of the country in ruins and tens of thousands left homeless.

As a three-day international reconstruction conference got underway in Kuwait, officials were seeking pledges from donors and investors to restore Iraq's devastated homes, schools, hospitals and economic infrastructure.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was joining the conference after holding talks on Monday in Cairo where he launched his latest Middle East tour.

The State Department has said it will not be making "direct contributions" to finance the reconstruction efforts but that over 150 American companies would travel to Kuwait as part of its private sector drive for the conference.

Baghdad declared victory against IS in December, after Iraqi forces, backed by a US-led coalition, regained control of the large parts of the country seized by the jihadist group in mid-2014.

Aid groups made pledges of $330 million on the first day of the conference, but officials said much more was needed.

Planning Minister Salman al-Jumaili said an assessment by Iraqi and international experts put reconstruction costs at $88.2 billion.

"The funds will be initially used to reintegrate displaced people and also for rebuilding the infrastructure of public services," the minister told AFP.

Mustafa al-Hiti, the head of Iraq's reconstruction fund, said some work had started but that funds were needed urgently to restore basic infrastructure and services in many provinces.

"What we have accomplished is less than one percent of what Iraq needs," Hiti said.

"We have more than 138,000 houses damaged, more than half this number completely destroyed," Hiti said, adding that more than 2.5 million Iraqis are still displaced.

Urgent investments needed

UN agencies Unicef and UN-Habitat called for urgent investment to restore basic infrastructure and services for children and families.

"Violence may have subsided in Iraq, but it has upended the lives of millions across the country, leaving one in four children in poverty and pushing families to extreme measures to survive," they said in a joint statement.

The World Health Organization called for investment in hospitals and other medical facilities, pointing to more than 14 hospitals and 170 health facilities destroyed.

On Tuesday, the conference will focus on private sector investment while on Wednesday national leaders are expected to announce governmental aid packages.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, whose country is a key member of the anti-IS coalition, visited Iraq on Monday ahead of attending the conference.

"I have come to tell you of France's support and to accompany you. We will always be there. We were there to participate in the coalition. We will also be there in the reconstruction phase," Le Drian said after landing in Baghdad.