“The nearby oil fields are full of riches,” he noted. “While we live here in extreme poverty. It is really unacceptable.”
Besides the lack of services or jobs, another big problem is the lack of security, says Sadoun Hadi, who works for the government but lives here. “The houses here are all built on government land. Which means that at any time the government could evict us all,” he complains.
“There are a lot of health problems here,” concedes Sundus Abdul-Hussein, the head of Wasit’s Public Health Department. “It’s a highly populated area but there’s no health care here. There’s no infrastructure like sanitation, garbage collection or even the provision of drinking water.
There are so many challenges here, says Jassim al-Araji, a civil society activist who also works as an assistant to the governor of Wasit province, where Oil Town is located.
“There are no municipal services, no job opportunities and the current financial crisis is making things even worse,” al-Araji told NIQASH. “And it’s impossible to get any development projects going here because the township is a shanty and doesn’t fall within our municipal responsibilities.”
“If oil wealth in Iraq was more evenly distributed then the people of this township – and Iraqis living in other slums – wouldn’t be suffering like this,” al-Araji says. “It’s ironic that the people of this neighbourhood suffer so much while black gold is all around them, possibly underneath them.”