As life returns to normal in Hawiga, Iraq, following the retreat of ISIS, ACTED (with support from ShelterBox) helps both those returning and those who stayed to weather-proof damaged houses in preparation for winter.
Droplets of rain slide across tarp covers before disappearing into the puddles below. Local men in wound headscarves, their faces drawn out by the cold, stand by kicking the ground to stay warm next to mountains of floral-patterned mattresses piled high in the backs of Toyota pickups.
Here in Hawiga district, of Kirkuk Governorate in northern Iraq, ACTED teams commence a long-awaited distribution of essential items to returnee families formerly displaced by conflict.
In 2014, ISIL took control of Hawiga district, Kirkuk, leading to a total loss of access for humanitarian actors which lasted until October 2017. Following successful military operations, the area is now back under the control of the Iraqi government, however, for both Hawiga’s returning inhabitants and those who remained during the ISIL occupation, the conflict has both decimated key infrastructure and placed an insupportable financial burden on households, stifling their ability to reestablish their communities.
Challenged by access delays and poor weather conditions, in December 2018 ACTED’s teams delivered essential items including: mattresses, water carriers, and solar-powered lights to over 500 households in Abassi, Hawiga. Given the damages to housing as a result of the conflict, ACTED also supplied Sealing Off Kits so that families could water-proof their homes in preparation for the worst of the winter.
As of 31 January 2018, 251,808 individuals have returned to Kirkuk Governorate. Many families are returning to their homes to find their houses have been looted and damaged by the conflict, and their personal possessions stolen. Around 70% of houses in Hawiga district were looted. With their savings depleted and access to markets, these families are braving dropping winter temperatures in unsuitable living conditions.
As the only humanitarian actor to gain access to certain communities in the Hawiga district, with the support of ShelterBox, ACTED is committed to supporting a safe and dignified return for displaced families.
 Joint Inter-Cluster Mission Report: Al Zab, Al Abbassi, Hawija City. 11 October 2017.
— the field