Iraq: Humanitarian Needs Overview 2016 (November 2015)

humanitarian needs and key figures

Iraq faces a complex and growing humanitarian crisis. Over 10 million people need some form of humanitarian assistance. Depending on the intensity of fighting and the scale of violence in the months ahead, 11 million Iraqis, perhaps even 12 million to 13 million, may need some form of humanitarian assistance by the end of 2016. Access to the most vulnerable people remains a key challenge, limiting the provision of life-saving assistance. As displacement protracts and people exhaust their income and assets, they are in growing need of assistance to access basic services. Meanwhile, the Government’s social protection floor, including support for front-line health care, emergency shelter, education, and water and sanitation, is contracting. As a result, Iraqi families who are unable to find the support and security they need are running out of options to cope.

Humanitarian characteristics

  1. The humanitarian crisis is unpredictable and can quickly become catastrophic, outpacing the ability of humanitarian partners to respond. Under-funded and under-capacitated, humanitarian actors will struggle to save lives in the face of any one of several factors including intensification of the conflict, widespread sectarian violence, political disintegration, or the collapse of the social protection floor.

  2. Faced with deteriorating conditions and a protracted crisis, Iraqi families are running out of options in Iraq.Increasing numbers of Iraqi families are migrating to Europe, as they are unable to educate their children, afford high housing and living costs, or find the safety and security they need in Iraq. With only 50 per cent of children in camps attending school and social benefits likely to contract due to continuing losses in oil revenues, urgent steps need to be taken to build the resilience of families through innovative, cost-efficient programmes in the housing, livelihoods, schooling and social sectors.

  3. Needs are far more critical than they were previously. Iraq faces a growing and increasingly complex crisis with protracting needs. In locations with large concentrations of displaced people, the demand for health servives has increased by as much as 50 per cent; in Baghdad, 84 per cent of displaced people are unable to access health facilities. Disease outbreaks, including cholera and other deadly diseases, are already occurring and may spread in coming months.

  4. Constrained by lack of funding and capacities, partners are worried about discrepancies in the response. Partners are worried that the deteriorating conditions, critical needs and insufficient capacity and lack of access will result in discrepancies in the level of response and may contribute to increased social tensions.

Impact of the crisis

The humanitarian crisis in Iraq is pervasive. The humanitarian crisis in Iraq has been one of the most rapidly unfolding in the world and it sees no signs of easing. In less than one year, more than 1 million Iraqis have been displaced by violence, bringing the number of people who have been uprooted from their homes since January 2014 to about 3.2 million. Over 10 million people are now estimated to need some form of humanitarian assistance as a direct consequence of violence and conflict linked to the takeover of Iraqi territory by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the counter-insurgency operation launched by the Government and its allied forces. Depending on the intensity of fighting and social and economic conditions, 2 million to 3 million more Iraqis may need help in 2016. Although partners are committed to doing everything possible to reach as many highly vulnerable people as possible, the humanitarian operation is constrained by limited access, insufficient funding and capacity gaps.

The humanitarian crisis in Iraq is a protection crisis. The ISIL insurgency is one of the most brutal in the world. People have been subjected to mass executions, systematic rape and acts of violence, including torture. Children have been used as suicide bombers and human shields, and sold at markets. Women and girls have been enslaved and subjected to sexual violence. The survivors of gender and sexual-based violence are suffering trauma and depression. Civilians who have remained in ISIL areas have been targeted, at risk of reprisal and retribution by combatants as they retake territory from ISIL. At the same time, people returning to areas that have come under Government control often face discrimination, arbitrary detention, destruction of property, or are denied access to their homes. Access to documentation and proof of identity is extremely difficult for displaced who have lost their personal identification documents. In some areas, over 80 per cent of children lack access to documents and registration, including birth certificates, which places them at risk of statelessness and exacerbates their exposure to abuse and exploitation.

Children have been used as suicide bombers and human shields, and sold at markets. Women and girls have been enslaved and subjected to sexual violence.

Humanitarian needs across Iraq are enormous and continue to grow. Over 8 million people need protection assistance. Access to essential health services is an immediate need for 8.5 million people. Across the country, 6.6 million people are in critical need of water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance. About 2.4 million people need food assistance and 2 million school-age children and adolescents (one in every five children) are out of school. Nearly half of the 3.2 million displaced people in Iraq are hosted in three governorates: Anbar, Baghdad and Dahuk.

Two years into the crisis, about 650,000 people still live in critical shelter arrangements such as informal settlements, unfinished and abandoned buildings, public and school buildings and religious sites. Eight per cent of all displaced Iraqis (about 260,000 people) live in one of 45 camps established over the past two years. Further compounding the fragile humanitarian situation are disease outbreaks, including cholera and other deadly diseases. Cholera is endemic in Iraq and the outbreak that was declared in late 2015 had affected over 2,800 people across most Iraqi governorates by end of November.

Two years into the crisis, about 650,000 people still live in critical shelter arrangements such as informal settlements, unfinished and abandoned buildings, public and school buildings and religious sites.

The impact on Iraqi families is widening and deepening as the crisis protracts. The crisis is impacting virtually all aspects of Iraq’s economy and society, and threatening efforts to build national reconciliation and protect the country’s impressive development gains. Displaced people have spread to about 3,500 locations throughout the country; more than 90 per cent are living outside of camps, hosted by communities who have done their best to protect and provide for them. The cost of this generosity has been high and the ability to continue is at the breaking point. Destitution is widespread, affecting displaced families and host communities alike. Health providers are struggling to deliver basic support in areas with high concentrations of displaced. Water and sanitation systems are in disrepair, increasing the risk of major public health emergencies.
The Government’s public food distribution system provides the only safety net for the majority of the poor, and is currently stretched to its limits in much of the country. Production and supply shortages and localized increases in demand have forced up the cost of basic commodities, including food. Families across the country, particularly in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) where the population has increased by 30 per cent, have been unable to cover basic needs and are relying on negative coping mechanisms. The debt burden has quadrupled in Dahuk,
Diyala, Erbil, Ninewa, and Sulaymaniyah governorates since October 2014, resulting in child labour, early marriage, and/or families embarking on dangerous journeys to leave Iraq.
Key agricultural areas including large parts of Iraq’s cereal belt in Anbar, Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Salah al-Din governorates remain under ISIL control raising the possibility of widespread shortages in the months ahead. Tensions between host communities and displaced families are rising, as resources dwindle and displaced are seen to be benefitting disproportionately.

The debt burden has quadrupled in Dahuk, Diyala, Erbil, Ninewa, and Sulaymaniyah governorates since October 2014, resulting in child labour, early marriage, and/or families embarking on dangerous journeys to leave Iraq.

Children are among the hardest hit by the extended conflict.
Grave violations of children’s rights have doubled from June 2014 to May 2015, with over 2,000 children (1,055 boys, 897 girls, 90 gender unknown) affected in 666 violations, compared to the same period in the previous year.2 Children are the hardest hit by the conflict, exposed to abuse, suffering from inadequate health care and education, and at risk of poor nutrition. Once a country known for its public education system in the region, now 2 million school-age children are out of school. Within camps, only 50 per cent of displaced children are attending school, while outside of camps, only 30 per cent of displaced children attend school. Schools in host communities are struggling to deal with teacher shortages and the destruction, damage, and occupation of educational facilities. Unless education needs are addressed, Iraq risks a lost generation of children. This will have a profound impact of the future of the country, its intellectual capital, and potentially create an environment conducive to radicalism and extremism.
The exposure to war, current living conditions, trauma, repeated displacement, and family separation has also resulted in an increasing number of children suffering psychosocial distress, a situation exacerbated by the limited availability of services to meet their immediate needs. It is estimated that in some areas, only 1 per cent of children have access to safe spaces.

Once a country known for its public education system in the region, now 2 million school-age children are out of school.

People returning to home areas have found communities and homes destroyed and require humanitarian support.
People who have decided to return often find their communities destroyed or heavily damaged by the conflict. Others have been coerced into returning to areas, which are neither perceived as safe nor where sustainable conditions for return exist. People returning to their neighbourhoods are at risk, vulnerable to deliberately booby-trapped buildings and roads contaminated by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). After nearly two years of conflict. Nearly all areas that have come under Government control require clearance of explosive devices, mines and explosive remnants of war to be safe for returns.

Government leadership and financing have been essential in addressing the crisis. Across the country, authorities have coordinated operations and provided generous direct support for the displaced. Support programmes have been funded through national and governorate budgets. Families have been welcomed, services extended, camps built and kerosene and cash distributed. However, in communities with large influxes, the institutions responsible for law and order, service delivery and public goods have sometimes struggled to deal with the size and scope of the crisis. Challenged by a 40 per cent drop in oil revenue and forced to mount costly operations to repel the ISIL insurgency, the Government is facing a massive fiscal gap. The Government has been forced into pre-sales of Iraqi oil reserves. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is equally hard hit, struggling to cope with denied and delayed oil transfers. Already, there are instances where schools have been unable to pay teachers and local administrations forced to delay or reduce basic services.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

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