— -- Mosul is springing back to life.
Almost five months after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in Iraq’s second-largest city, residents are beginning to rebuild their lives.
As Mosul reels from the effects of the nearly three-year occupation by ISIS and the nine-month offensive to recapture the city, streets are bustling with residents shopping at local markets. Revelers have returned to cafes and classes have resumed for students.
Of the 1 million civilians who fled the city, at least 327,000 have returned to their homes as of Oct. 12 -- 184,000 people to East Mosul and 143,000 to West Mosul, according to the United Nations.
“Eastern and western Mosul couldn’t be more different," Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said in a statement in October. "Ninety-seven percent of the population has returned to their homes in eastern Mosul. People are rebuilding their lives there. Children are in school, services are being reestablished and businesses are open. Conditions in western Mosul are very difficult. Large parts of the city are destroyed and have not yet been green-lighted for returns.”
In East Mosul, 437 schools have reopened and 450,000 children have resumed classes, while in West Mosul, 110 schools have reopened to welcome nearly 81,000 children, about 36,000 of them girls. Despite the slow return to normalcy, students are facing grim conditions to resume classes. They have to navigate through desolate streets and heaps of rubble in abandoned neighborhoods to access schools.
The nine-month battle by Iraqi Special Forces might have liberated the city from the extremists bent on establishing a global caliphate, but the resulting damage from ISIS' occupation and the U.S.-led coalition's airstrikes remains.
Explosive devices are spread widely and randomly all over Mosul making the government’s effort to resettle residents even more difficult.
The wanton damage to infrastructure caused by ISIS to bridges, government buildings and water and sewage facilities is also slowing recovery efforts.
Recent estimates by the UN suggest that repairing Mosul's basic infrastructure will cost more than $1 billion and take years to complete.
Approximately 673,000 residents are still displaced from their homes: 274,000 are living in camps and emergency sites surrounding the city while 400,000 are staying with family, friends or other accommodations, according to the UN.