Iraq still faces the consequences of the 2014-2017 war against the Islamic State. Violence and mass destruction displaced millions of people who continue to need protection and access to services. The humanitarian crisis has been deepened by an economic downturn, civil unrest and the coronavirus outbreak. The Iraqi government has started closing camps for displaced people, prompting concerns that thousands will be left homeless and vulnerable during winter and a pandemic. The EU continues to provide humanitarian aid for people in need, both in and out of camps.
What are the needs?
The situation in Iraq remains very fragile. The past year has seen mass protests in most of the cities. The coronavirus pandemic has placed an additional burden on the health system that is yet to recover from decades of war and neglect. It has also worsened living conditions for the most vulnerable. Millions of Iraqis and Syrian refugees need continued humanitarian assistance, as reconstruction and development are still underway. In May, the UN estimated that poverty could double by the end of 2020. Surveys found displaced people particularly vulnerable to eviction and unable to meet their basic needs as they report a loss of income.
Since 2014, two-thirds of displaced Iraqis have returned to their areas of origin where infrastructures and services are still being rehabilitated. Those who cannot or do not want to return are facing great pressure and uncertainty after the government announced the closure of all camps. The humanitarian community has warned that involuntary returns will lead to unnecessary suffering, tensions in areas of return and homelessness.
Displaced families in and out of camps need better access to basic services such as water, healthcare and education but also legal assistance. Other needs include protection, psycho-social care and physical rehabilitation. The coronavirus outbreak has emphasised the need for improved frontline response capacity.