Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller – Opening Remarks at Member States Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in Iraq, 10 July 2019
New York, 10 July 2019
Excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you all for joining our briefing today on the humanitarian situation in Iraq.
I have the pleasure to be joined by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations, Mr. Mohammed Marzooq and our Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ms. Marta Ruedas, who is also the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Resident Coordinator. Ms. Ruedas will brief on the humanitarian developments and how humanitarian operations have adapted to meet evolving needs since the end of the major military operations in 2017.
First, allow me to make a few remarks to set the stage.
It is not too long ago that the humanitarian situation in Iraq topped all headlines and agendas. When I visited Mosul in July 2017, shortly after its recapture from ISIL by the Iraqi Security Forces, I was struck by the scale of humanitarian needs, by the destruction of homes and entire neighbourhoods. It was clear then, that there was no quick fix to the deep scars left by years of brutality and violence.
At the end of 2017, after the formal declaration of the military defeat of ISIL in Iraq, humanitarian needs persisted, but they have also evolved over time.
During active military operations, the focus for humanitarian actors on the ground was to provide immediate, life-saving assistance to people fleeing the violence.
That focus has shifted. It is clear today that many parts of the country are beginning to return to normal life. But millions of people still need help to recover after years of conflict and trauma. Humanitarian efforts, accordingly, have evolved to address the diverse and nuanced needs in Iraq’s post-conflict transition.
The need for humanitarian assistance remains most pressing in areas where hostilities destroyed local infrastructure; where public services have broken down. Communities that generously welcomed families displaced during the crisis, are struggling to cope with the added population pressure in the long-term. Close cooperation with recovery and development actors is key to ensure a transition out of humanitarian need can be achieved in these areas.
The crisis has also torn deeply at the country’s social fabric. Of the 1.7 million Iraqis who remain internally displaced as a result of the conflict, many feel unable to return to their communities. Homes have been destroyed, and neighbourhoods are contaminated with explosive remnants of the conflict. Many of the displaced feel a lack of social cohesion in their areas of origin or perceive these areas to be unsafe.
Families with perceived affiliation to extremist groups – including those returning from Syria – are today among the most vulnerable. It may be unrealistic to expect people to return home under such conditions and necessary to understand that, if they do, they will require a great deal of support.
Humanitarian response planning this year reflects Iraq’s transition. Evolving needs, the growing capacity and reach of national institutions, and the planned transition from humanitarian relief towards recovery and durable solutions all underpin a year-on-year reduction in the number of people prioritised for assistance under the Humanitarian Response Plan.
In 2019, 6.7 million people have been identified as in need of assistance. Complementing the national response, the humanitarian system has set a target of providing assistance to 1.75 million of them. This is just over half of the target set in 2018, which was 3.4 million people.
But this positive trajectory must not lead to complacency on the part of the international community.
I should highlight in this context that, more than half way through the year, the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq has received only 36 per cent of its $701 million requirement.
This is higher than the global average for humanitarian response plans; and let me express my sincere gratitude to our generous donors for this, including to the United States and the United Kingdom who reported new contributions just this week.
The highly-prioritized Humanitarian Response Plans for Iraq have been generously funded over 90 per cent for the past two years. This time last year, the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan was 56 per cent funded.
The current shortfalls have serious consequences. Let me give you just one example: Last month, education programmes in 17 Ninewa displacement camps were interrupted due to underfunding, impacting the education of hundreds of children. Next month, unless additional funding is secured, the learning centres in these camps will be forced to close entirely.
So, even as we see a positive trajectory in the post-conflict transition in Iraq, we must not forget that humanitarian assistance remains crucial, as millions of people continue to struggle with the legacy of conflict and mass displacement.