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Millions in global aid for Iraq sits unspent

May 28, 2012 • Business


In this photo taken on Sunday, May 13, 2012, teachers seen through a mirror as a dirty first aid box hangs on a wall in the teachers’ room at al-Ameen ramshackle elementary school in Baqouba, capital of Iraq’s Diyala province, 35 miles (60 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq. Millions of dollars in international aid to build and repair Iraq’s dilapidated schools have for years gone unspent. Now, Iraq’s government risks losing the funding as the World Bank weighs whether some of it would be better used in some of the poorest nations around the globe. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

BAQOUBA, Iraq (AP) — Outside the crumbling elementary school, goats feed on trash strewn across the front yard. Inside, the ceiling is rotting, toilets don’t work and students scrunch hip-to-hip behind narrow desks.

Millions of dollars in international aid to build and repair Iraq’s dilapidated schools have for years gone unspent. Now, Iraq’s government risks losing the funding as the World Bank weighs whether some of it would be better used elsewhere.

The dilemma is one that echoes across the international aid community — whether to continue financing a government with vast oil resources and a $100 billion annual budget or divert the assistance to needier nations. It also reflects growing frustration over the bureaucratic hurdles and contracting problems that have kept the money from being used.

The spending delays have left buildings like the scruffy al-Min elementary school in the former insurgent stronghold of Baqouba, 35 miles (60 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, in limbo. It’s one of thousands of schools across Iraq that desperately need money for repair.

“The building looks like a prison, not a school,” said headmaster Abdul-Karim Mohammed Sabti. “This is not an appropriate atmosphere for learning.”

The education aid is a slice of $1.3 billion in grants and loans the World Bank and its donor nations have given Iraq since 2004 to fund efforts ranging from labor and welfare programs to providing emergency health services and protecting the environment. Initially, the money was intended to help rebuild the country after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. But the bank maintained the assistance as it became clear the country desperately needed help as it faced years of violence.

More than one-third of the overall assistance — about Login to read more

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