When water makes a homeland liveable again

Sometimes, clean water means more than life and health. It’s the long-awaited first step to reclaiming a beloved community.

The people of the Al Nawfeli village in Iraq returned to find their neighbourhoods in rubble.

ISIL had attacked their region in 2014, occupying towns throughout the Sinjar area. Tens of thousands of Yazidis, members of a minority Kurdish people, were at risk of violence, abduction and forced slavery.

Many fled immediately. Others became trapped in the region, under ISIL occupation. By 2017, most had managed to flee to places as far as neighbouring Syria.  

It’s no wonder the people of Al Nawfeli left their home – but that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking. Most families had lived nowhere else for many generations. Their community represented history, identity and hope for the future. 

Their water source destroyed     

Eventually, ISIL was driven out of the Sinjar region. Yazidi families began returning to their homeland in 2018, eager to rebuild for their children. But most of their infrastructure had fallen into disrepair or been destroyed in the bombing.

One of the main losses was the village’s only borehole. It couldn’t be repaired – not with the tools and knowledge community members had.

Sabah Hammad Shanawi, a husband and father of four children, described what happened next. The families had to make regular trips to bring water from far-off sources, just to survive day-to-day in Al Nawfeli.

A man sits on a mat on the ground, surrounded by small children. He is taking to another man, who is taking notes.
Sabah explained to a World Vision team member the dangers he and other fathers faced, to buy and import water. Photo: SWAR ARIF AND ALI SALOW

Families had to drive as far as 14 kilometres, only to pay for the water they needed – the equivalent of $43 Canadian a month. For families with no livelihoods left, that sum was overwhelming.

The stop-gap system was also filled with danger. The roads to nearby towns were not safe. Sabah and the other men would need to plan and coordinate with security forces, just to get water through to Al Nawfeli.

Better than ever before

Then something happened to make life in Al Nawfeli feasible for the years ahead. Thanks to caring donors like you, World Vision was able to rehabilitate the destroyed village borehole, giving the families here a fighting chance of resurrecting their community.  

The borehole works far better than before, says Sabah. Its efficiency has increased by 100 per cent. Families can draw as much clean water as they need from a safe, familiar location. The conversations that used to happen around the borehole are happening once again.

Clothes can get washed, meals cooked, tea brewed, and wounds cleaned. Best of all, families are no longer suffering health issues from the dirty water of nearby streams and ponds.

The borehole will be like a beacon for Yazidi families from the village who still live far from home. Word is spreading that life here in Al Nawfeli is possible again. Many reunions will be celebrated in the months and years to come.

 “We will encourage other families to return to the village,” says Sabah. “Water is the secret of life and the main element for human beings to live.”