Plumbing with Passion in Fallujah

How a short vocational training programme has changed Suhaib’s life

May 28, 2024

Suhaib fixes some pipe work at the current building site he is working at in Fallujah.

Photo credit: UNDP Iraq 2024

Fallujah, Al Anbar - Every morning, Suhaib Rasme Ahmed, woke up praying there would be work for him to do on different construction sites in the city. 

The 25-year-old had been working as a day labourer in Fallujah for as long as he can remember, earning 25,000 IQD (app. $17) in daily wages to take care of his elderly parents who he lives with. 

Recently, however, luck smiled on him when he was selected to take part in a vocational training course by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its partner, Human Appeal.

The course, tailored to empower returnees, former displaced individuals, and community members, offered Suhaib a chance to hone his skills in plumbing

“I jumped at this opportunity because it was my one chance to get a steady income,” Suhaib shared with a small smile lighting his face. The modest stipend of $15 (21,750 IQD) provided during the training ensured Suhaib could continue supporting his family.

With training from seasoned professionals at the local vocational training institute, Suhaib emerged as a skilled plumber. 

Suhaib (left) with Wisam (right) at their current building site in Fallujah.

Photo credit: UNDP Iraq 2024

The training came with a job placement at Wisam Yassin Muklif’s plumbing workshop, where Suhaib got a few days of orientation before he was charged with taking on plumbing duties for an entire house. 

“It simplifies my work when I receive trained individuals. I give them basic orientation and they start working immediately. Suhaib has been with us for nearly two months and is already a team leader,” Wisam shared.

He added that having trained plumbers enabled him to work on more houses in the Al Zuhair Compound, a new development with over 3000 private residences emerging on the outskirts of Fallujah town. With Suhaib on board, he has expanded to two teams, with three plumbers each– Suhaib leads the second group. 

A plumbing toolkit offered to Suhaib at the end of the training enabled him to start working immediately – allowing him to secure opportunities outside Wisam’s workshop. 

“I was recently offered some work to do the plumbing on a house outside the estate, which paid me 75,000 IQD (app. $52),” Suhaib shared excitedly. A significant increase from 50,000 IQD (app. $34) which he earns per day at the compound. 

With a more stable income, Suhaib can now dream of a better future. 

Photo credit: UNDP Iraq 2024
Photo credit: UNDP Iraq 2024

Suhaib's story represents a larger narrative unfolding in Fallujah and in many areas of return in Iraq – a story of reconciliation and rebuilding. Both Suhaib and Wisam were displaced from their homes – living in Baghdad for a couple of years before returning to Fallujah. Now that peace has returned, their interest is in getting their lives back on course. 

“Acceptance has become commonplace, and sensitivity has reduced, It's not like before,” Wisam remarked. Further emphasizing, that for him, skills were more important than an individual’s past since what he needs right now are skilled workers. 

According to assessments conducted by Human Appeal before the project started, vocational trades provided the most employment opportunities for young people, yet only a few expressed interest in them. It is for precisely that reason that workshop owners, like Wisam, are eager to partner with the project to provide job placements for trainees. This collaboration has supported efforts to promote reintegration and acceptance while addressing the economic needs of the communities. 

Ammar Mahmoud, the Director of the Organisations Department in the Fallujah Mayor’s office (pictured left) stressed the importance of such initiatives for restoring the local economy and fostering peaceful reintegration. 

“We are happy that UNDP and different organisations are promoting these activities as they encourage returnee acceptance in the communities, particularly for widows who are increasingly seen as innocent victims,” he said. Adding that with the growing construction sector, every addition to its manpower creates employment and fosters peace. 

For UNDP, this is the start of a new and peaceful Iraq where communities work together towards sustainable development.

About this initiative 

Through its Community-Based Reconciliation and Reintegration in Iraq (C2RI) project – a part of its Social Cohesion Programme, UNDP is working with partners Human Appeal to promote return, reintegration, and social cohesion in Iraq’s areas of return. Implemented in Kirkuk, Diyala, and Anbar Governates, the C2RI project has already impacted 170 beneficiaries, including 82 women across all the Governorates. 

With a target of reaching 9000 individuals in 2024, these efforts, supported by UNDP's Funding Window for Peacebuilding, are instrumental in laying the foundation for a peaceful and socially cohesive Iraqi society as the country embarks on its sustainable development journey.