Residents gather around a car that distributes meat to the poor in the old city of Mosul, Iraq, this week. Picture : Khalid Al-Mousily/Reuters

On a scorching afternoon this month, an angry crowd besieged a mini-truck loaded with meat of two slaughtered cows amid the ruins of what was the last Islamic State (IS) bastion in Mosul.
In a desperate scramble, they grabbed beef from a man standing in the open back of the truck and, after it pulled away, some stayed on to descend on the next one to arrive.

Part of an annual ritual of Eid al-Adha celebrations, the deliveries did little to satisfy people living in the rubble of Old City more than a year after IS was ousted in a final battle reduced many inhabitants to homeless beggars.

“There are many residents who need aid in getting food and rebuilding their houses,” Ali Sharif, 24, said on Thursday after taking a bag with meat from one of the cars. “Everyone here was affected by war.”

Since Iraqi forces celebrated victory over IS, life for the Sunni Muslim inhabitants of ancient west Mosul, some of whom welcomed IS’s arrival in 2014, has hardly improved. That has left them no happier with the Shia-led government in Baghdad they long accused of treating them like second-class citizens.

“We will give this to the poor people here to help them and we ask God to bless us. Our government doesn’t do anything (to help them),” Ali Aga, a local logistics specialist, said as he headed into a labyrinth of alleyways in Mosul’s ancient Old City to knock on doors and hand over packets of fresh beef.

Many of the Old City’s narrow streets remain inundated by wreckage left by the air strikes of US-led coalition forces that helped Iraqi government forces drive out IS after nine months of devastating urban warfare.

The remains of some walls look like they are about to collapse. Decayed body parts can still be seen, and smelled, amid the debris where the most severe fighting raged west of the River Tigris that bisects Iraq’s second city.

To help towns laid to waste in fighting that broke IS’s grip on a third of Iraq, Baghdad set up the Reconstruction Fund for Areas Affected by Terroristic Operations (ReFAATO).

The reconstruction plan for Mosul and surrounding Nineveh governorate targeted 78 projects for 2017-2018 worth 75.5 billion Iraqi dinars (R912million), supplemented by a e35m (R579m) loan from Germany, according to ReFAATO figures published on August 20.

But experts say rebuilding Mosul alone - which had a pre-war population of 2 million and now has 646000 homeless - is expected to cost billions of dollars. “Low budgets compared with size of damage” pose a major challenge, ReFAATO said.

Mosul municipal officials and Western donors are concerned the slowness of reconstruction might rekindle Sunni-Shia sectarian grievances that IS exploited. - Reuters