How to rebuild a city: cold, hard cash

A woman stands among buildings damaged by airstrikes in southwest Mosul on April 3, 2017

IT IS FALL IN MOSUL, THE SEASON’S FIRST COOL BREEZES blow off the Tigris, and I am walking around a 12th century castle with my friend Safwan. We have spent the morning scouting on behalf of an NGO dedicated to direct cash assistance. The surrounding blocks are destroyed, but several families are trying to move back anyway, clearing the wrecked Ottoman courtyards, stone by stone. They are excellent candidates for support, but Safwan, a soft-spoken 29-year-old engineer, remains frustrated. “There is no progress with the mass of destruction,” he says. “It needs effort from foreign countries and serious work from the government. Until now, we haven’t seen that.”

Safwan’s frustration is common in Mosul. Though the city was liberated from ISIS in 2017, millions of tons of rubble are yet to be cleared; 40% of old Mosul

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