Following the 2014–2017 conflict, which displaced over 6 million people, an estimated 5.6 million people, including 2.6 million children, need humanitarian assistance in Iraq. The country is also severely affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, with nearly 287,000 confirmed cases and over 7,900 deaths.
UNICEF’s multi-pronged humanitarian strategy in Iraq includes the provision of integrated critical services to save young lives and system strengthening for a sustained impact. To support an effective transition from humanitarian assistance to longer-term development, UNICEF will facilitate strong linkages between humanitarian action and development programming.
UNICEF is requesting US$70.8 million to meet the critical and acute humanitarian needs of children and families affected by a combination of humanitarian situations, including protracted crisis due to conflict, political instability and the COVID-19 situation. The response will focus both on prevention and the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
The humanitarian crisis in Iraq stems primarily from the 2014–2017 conflict, which led to the displacement of 6 million people. There has been a steady stream of returnees, with 4.7 million people returning to their places of origin, and 1.4 million people still displaced. Overall, 5.6 million people, including 2.6 million children, continue to need humanitarian assistance. This includes 1.8 million people (814,000 children and 15 per cent people with disabilities) facing acute humanitarian needs.
The political, economic and social instability in Iraq is challenging the humanitarian response. Between October 2019 and April 2020, major demonstrations against the Government led to the resignation of the Prime Minister and political paralysis during several attempts to form a new government. Security remains a major concern, with continued attacks and violence by various political, religious and tribal factions. Recent assassinations of human rights activists in the south illustrate the fragility of the situation. Obtaining access permissions for humanitarian agencies remains challenging.
The country is severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of 13 September 2020, there are 287,000 confirmed cases and over 7,900 deaths.10 The south and centre of the country – notably Baghdad, Basra and Karbala – are the worst affected.
The reduction in oil prices has led to a severe economic downturn, which has further exacerbated humanitarian needs for the most vulnerable. The number of children living below the poverty line has doubled to 38 per cent. While maternal mortality has declined, neonatal deaths remain high (56 per cent of under-five mortality). At least 200,000 infants are missing out on routine life-saving vaccinations against preventable childhood diseases.
Ongoing school closures due to COVID-19 are affecting 10 million children. Some 1.6 million children are in need of child protection and gender-based violence support due to both COVID-19 and displacement. According to a remote monitoring exercise conducted by UNICEF in May 2020, commonly reported issues include lack of access to education (83 per cent); stress, fear and anxiety (51 per cent); child labour (26 per cent); and violence, abuse or neglect within the household (24 per cent).
While more than 86 per cent of people in Iraq have access to basic drinking water, only 39 per cent have access to safely managed water services. Only 24 per cent of the population has access to safely managed sanitation services.