Partial Restoration Programmes in Lattakia: The Governorate Controls the NGOs

Lattakia governorate continues to launch projects to restore partially damaged homes in the northern countryside of the governorate, which has witnessed war operations and the displacement of part of its resident population.

The governorate is collaborating with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch in restoration and reconstruction projects with financial support from UNHCR, Première Urgence Internationale and other international organisations. These organisations are funding local NGOs to carry out certain projects, including partial restoration and reconstruction; however, the Lattakia governorate controls where the projects are implemented and the profiles of the beneficiaries.

The partial restoration project is currently targeting the farming villages of Al-Shmeisat, Deir Hanna, and Ghammam, which administratively belong to the Al-Rabiea sub-district​​, as well as the villages of Gheineimiyeh and Wadi Sheikhan which administratively belong to ​​the Kinsabba sub-district.

The governorate requires the owners of damaged homes to personally submit requests to the relief office in the governorate building, including copies of their personal IDs, family cards, ownership documents, and a receipt of payment for an electricity or water bill. The governorate requires partial restoration applicants to submit a police report proving that the damage to their homes was due to “terrorist attacks.”

Restoration is provided free of charge and covers one house per family. Those who have previously benefited from restoration work from any other party may not apply for restoration from the governorate.

An informed source working for the Lattakia governorate told The Syria Report that the governorate divided up Lattakia’s administrative districts between local aid and development NGOs. In all cases, the activities of those organisations were subject to management by the Lattakia governorate. This has impacted the work of these NGOs to the extent that some of them saw changes in the composition of their administrative and executive staff based on governorate directives. The governorate has gained the upper hand in distributing restoration projects to the NGOs.

The work crews that carry out the restoration projects are mixed, some belong to the NGOs while others belong to the governorate.However, the NGOs are the ones that pay workers’ wages and repair costs. Engineers employed by the governorate also supervise the work.

According to the source, the Lattakia governorate administration for relief, reconstruction and restoration files has been accused of discriminating between the residents benefitting from the restoration projects receiving international funding, as well as between the areas being targeted for restoration work. Neither do the international and local organisations have the freedom to operate as they wish, nor can they specify the groups or geographic areas they wish to target for restoration.

In Ghammam, for example, the names of only a few dozen residents who have been displaced to Lattakia city years ago were registered for restoration work. As for the affected residents of the Turkmen minority who qualify for restoration relief, their names were not registered. Most of them have fled to opposition-held areas in Syria or to Turkey. Sources add that the fates of some Turkmen houses in the village remain unclear due to terrorism charges against those who participated in both peaceful and armed opposition activities.

Some residents with damaged homes said to The Syria Report that the partial restoration project proposed by the governorate is not enough to address medium and large damages. They fear that registering for the partial restoration programme now may deprive them of the opportunity for full restoration or reconstruction in the future.

A source in the Lattakia governorate said that governorate-employed engineers working in the restoration programme usually neglect repairing damages to walls and electrical wiring. Additionally, the restoration of private homes has not yet been accompanied by restoration to publicly shared infrastructure in the target areas. For example, the village of Ghammam has not yet seen any repairs to its public electricity network.

While officials from the government, municipalities, and Baath Party have been keen to visit areas targeted by the restoration programme in a bid to further their political agenda, they have failed to respond to the demands of residents to improve living conditions and implement restoration work.