Iraq IDP Crisis Situation Report No. 15 (4 – 10 October 2014) [EN/AR/KU]
The capture of the Anbar Governorate city of Heet by ISIL has led to about 31,000 families fleeing the town and surrounding areas.
The reopening of the Turkish and Kurdistan Region of Iraq border is expected to lead to an influx of Syrian refugees arriving from Kobane in the next days and weeks.
Humanitarian access in many parts of western and central Iraq is severely constrained.
Special offices have been established in Baghdad and Najaf to provide document replacement services for IDPs unable to return to their governorates of origin.
In the last few days, Iraq was struck with another major wave of large-scale displacement this year, after an estimated 180,000 people (30,000 families) fled the Anbar Governorate city of Heet and surrounding districts after the city fell to ISIL and its affiliated armed groups. The highway from Heet to Baghdad was choked by pick-up trucks as families escaped the fighting and left with only basic household items.
Reports suggest that as much as 75 per cent of the population of Heet town (originally 300,000) have left with only about 50,000 people remaining. The Heet IDPs have reportedly dispersed to the governorate’s capital of Ramadi (1,000 families), Khaldiya (20,000 families), Hajaj (437 families) and Amiryah Rahaliya (1,200 families), among other destinations. They have taken shelter in public buildings, including schools that had already been occupied by previous waves of IDPs, or within host communities. Reports also indicate that another group of displaced persons would have fled south, towards Kerbala. Partners indicate that a group of 3,000 families on the move towards Baghdad have been identified north of Kerbala. Some 500 families reached Abu Ghraib area where the Government is registering them. It is unclear at this stage if this group is originating from Heet. Meanwhile, reports of some Heet IDPs trying to return to their place of origin in Falluja – an active conflict zone – reinforces observations by the IOM in its latest bulletin of a growing trend of secondary displacements, degrading IDPs own coping mechanisms and further stretching the limited resources of humanitarian actors. There are also indications of IDPs sheltering in mosques in Kerbala being requested to leave their shelters ahead of religious festivities later this month.
Humanitarian actors are mobilizing to provide assistance to the newly displaced including food for 15,000 families, medicines and non-food items, including blankets, in the coming days. This is putting additional pressure on the food and other assistance pipelines for the country
Since January 2014, and excluding the recent large-scale displacements from Heet, 1.8 million people have been displaced across Iraq. More than 850,000 people, or 49 per cent of Iraq’s IDPs, have sought sanctuary in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. In a conflict defined by its fluid frontlines, this week’s recent mass displacement from Heet does not guarantee that this will necessarily be the last this year. Renewed offensives in Anbar and other areas could trigger additional displacement. At a macro level this year there have been mass displacements from Anbar in January, and additionally in June, in August and now Heet in October. But on any given day, families are on the move. In one instance in Diyala Governorate this week, approximately 300 displaced families (1,800 individuals) fleeing fighting in Al-Muqdadiya were reportedly blocked by security forces at a checkpoint near Khanaqin due to apparent shortages of shelter at IDP camps.
The border region between Turkey and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has opened, leading to a refugee influx from the Syrian town of Kobane estimated at over 1,600 individuals in just two days. In the next few weeks, several thousand more refugees are expected to cross into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Humanitarian agencies can currently cope with the influx, but will be stretched with further arrivals. This will add pressure as well to the IDP response for humanitarians and the Kurdistan Regional Government. With harsh winter temperatures and wet weather also approaching, and the very low temperatures which can drop to -15 C, affecting high altitude areas - where there are large IDP concentrations such as Dohuk Governorate - as well as the heightened risks of landslides, the demands of the displaced for cooking and heating fuel, warm clothes, weatherproofed shelters and infrastructure is also rising. The IOM estimates there are 1.26 million IDPs throughout Iraq at risk from the upcoming winter weather. In order to stabilize and prepare the camp population and the most vulnerable IDPs in other types of shelters for the oncoming winter, 600,000 people across Iraq are in need of immediate winterization assistance. Displaced populations living in camps, informal settlements, and sub-optimal shelters are most at risk.
There is the also specter of increased evictions as IDP cash reserves for rent dry-up, coupled with the looming reopening of schools that are now serving as collective shelters. The impacts of an inadequate shelter response include an increase in avoidable morbidity and mortality due to respiratory infections from low temperatures as well as protection issues. Generally, high vulnerability levels, low assistance coverage, and increased prices of necessary items such as fuel are expected to cause an increase in negative coping mechanisms including exploitation, debt, and depletion of assets to compensate for the lack of livelihoods and unmet needs.
The absence of uniformity of shelters requires novel solutions to winter-proof dwellings against harsh conditions. A proposed basic and supplementary NFI winterisation kit by the Shelter/NFI cluster for one family includes one carpet, six high thermal blankets, one plastic sheet and rope, and six mattresses. The proposed winterisation kit for tents includes one inner liner for a family tent with one partition and weather-proofing and partitions for substandard shelters, eight polystyrene boards for the floor and five thermal mats for tents and insulation of sub-standard shelter. Additional planned support per family includes a heater, jerry can and fuel through in-kind or cash assistance.
A supplementary proposed personal winterisation kit includes six sets of clothes plus shoes for both adults and children. UNICEF reports there are massive shortages for winterisation and that more than 200,000 children are likely to be without adequate winter clothing and shoes for the winter. 168,000 sets of children’s clothing, plus pairs of shoes, began arriving in the first of 200 containers this week for children aged between 3 months and 14 years-old. A further donation of 20,000 pairs of shoes for children aged between 3 and 14 years-old has also been secured. However, these shoes, given the lead time in manufacture and delivery, are only expected to arrive at the end of February 2015. There are also shortages of adult winter clothing, especially for pregnant women. Given strict import regulations against second hand clothing, the best alternative for a timely response is seen as cash assistance.
The humanitarian community admits it is ill prepared for the adverse climatic conditions through a combination of circumstances, including a lack of funding. Among the options being considered by humanitarian actors is direct cash assistance, albeit with the $500 million donation by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia all but exhausted. Advocacy for the Government of Iraq to ensure kerosene subsidies is ongoing. To note, however, that although the country’s oil production has not been unduly affected by the conflict, its refining capacity has. The available humanitarian budget will only allow for two months’ distribution of kerosene at current prices for less than half of the 80,000 vulnerable families in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and 4,700 Syrian refugee families. In previous years fuel supplies were provided for four winter months to vulnerable families.
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