Iraq: 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan - Advance Executive Summary

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 16 Dec 2016

Advance Executive Summary

This advance summary presents the objectives and strategic direction of the humanitarian operation in Iraq in 2017. The summary is based on Government plans, data from assessments done during the last months of 2016 and military projections. A fuller analysis of data, including movement projections and changing vulnerabilities, is underway and will be included in the finalized Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). The Humanitarian Country Team intends to review all components of the HRP, and to adjust elements as required, at the conclusion of the Mosul campaign.

Crisis Overview and Impact

The humanitarian crisis in Iraq remains one of the largest and most volatile in the world. The pace of displacement over the past three years is nearly without precedent. In 2014, 2 million civilians were displaced in Iraq; in 2015, an additional 1.4 million were forced to flee. During the past year, more than 650,000 people in areas impacted by the conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have been newly displaced. Every one of the nine major military campaigns during 2016 has created new displacement. Over 3 million Iraqis are currently displaced, living in 3,700 locations across the country; more than one million displaced and refugees are in the Kurdistan Region. In 2017, depending on the intensity and length of fighting in Mosul, Hawiga and Tel Afar, as many as 1.2 million additional civilians may be forced from their homes.

More people are vulnerable now than at any time during the recent conflict. Three years of continuous conflict and economic stagnation have impacted nearly every aspect of Iraqi society. Poverty rates in Kurdistan have doubled and unemployment has trebled in many communities. Payrolls for government employees have been cut or delayed. Agricultural production has declined by 40 per cent, undermining the country’s food sufficiency, and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to migrate to urban areas for jobs and support. The number of health consultations performed in health clinics has increased eightfold and around 23 hospitals and more than 230 primary health facilities have been damaged or destroyed. Schools in the governorates impacted by ISIL are forced to convene three sequential sessions to cope with the increased number of students. Nearly 3.5 million school-aged Iraqi children attend school irregularly, or not at all, and more than 600,000 displaced children have missed an entire year of education.

The humanitarian situation is expected to worsen until families are able to re-establish their livelihoods and consolidate their households. Although military gains against ISIL are expected in the early part of the year, measurable improvements in humanitarian conditions are likely to be registered only late in 2017. In many sectors, improvement is not expected until well into 2018. Based on assessments conducted in the last months of 2016, 2.9 million people are currently food insecure, forced to rely on severe and often irreversible coping strategies. Inter-agency and cluster assessments confirm that 10.3 million people require health care, 8.9 million protection support and 8.3 million water and sanitation. About 4.7 million people need shelter and household goods while 3.5 million children need education support. Social tensions are expected to impact at least 4.7 million people.

Iraqi civilians in conflict areas are in extreme danger. Families in Mosul, Hawiga and Tel Afar, and other districts under the control of ISIL, face some of the gravest threats in the Middle East. Civilians risk being caught in cross-fire and are subjected to bombardment; they face execution, abduction, rape, looting, detention and expulsion. Thousands of people are already caught between the front lines of opposing forces and tens of thousands more may become trapped in the months ahead. Civilians being screened are fearful of mistreatment and sectarian violence, although localized, threatens to destabilize embattled communities. For more than three years, hundreds of thousands of men, women, girls and boys have been brutalized by violence, denied access to safety and basic services, and subjected to exploitation, harassment, and intimidation. An estimated 3.6 million children in Iraq – one in five – are at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence, abduction and recruitment into armed groups. The number of reported grave child rights violations increased threefold in the first six months in 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. Millions of Iraqis continue to wrestle with the enormous psychological, emotional and physical impact of the crisis, and are likely to do so for generations.

The operation in Mosul has the potential to be the single largest humanitarian operation in the world in 2017. Military sources confirm that as many as 500,000 civilians remain in the central and eastern parts of the city and that close to 700,000 are concentrated in the densely populated western sections. Nearly every accessible family, whether displaced or resident in their homes, is vulnerable. Without emergency support, these families will be unable to survive. Conditions in retaken areas are difficult. Buildings and infrastructure are damaged, services have been cut, supplies are irregular and many areas are contaminated by explosive hazards. Families who opt to stay in their homes require life-saving food support, water, health care and specialized protection assistance. Displaced families, once they have been screened and reached an emergency site or camp, require comprehensive emergency assistance including shelter, food, water, sanitation, household items, health care, education and specialized protection. During the first two months of the military campaign, more than 339,000 vulnerable people in and out of camps have been reached with emergency response packages containing food, water and hygiene items within 48 hours of areas being retaken.

The Iraqi Security Forces have adopted a humanitarian concept of operations putting civilian protection at the centre of their military strategy for Mosul. During the early stages of the military campaign, security forces asked civilians to remain in their homes, promising that every effort will be made to protect them. By mid-December, with observers predicting a longer and more difficult battle than expected, Government and humanitarians were forced to envision the possibility of a prolonged siege of the city, widespread hunger and the impact on civilians of a lack of water and medical care during the intensely cold winter months.

More than one million Iraqis have returned to their homes in the last year; up to 3-4 million may be outside their homes when anti-ISIL military operations conclude. The conditions facing returning families vary enormously. Some return areas are contaminated by explosive hazards. Public infrastructure and private housing have been destroyed and damaged in at least half of all retaken areas. Essential services are available in only some districts and there are very few employment opportunities until local economies start to take off. Many families expect compensation. Acts of retaliation continue to fuel social tensions, particularly in communities where local populations are perceived as having supported ISIL. Efforts by local authorities to move families to their original homes, even if conditions for safe, voluntary, dignified returns are not yet in place, are expected to accelerate as soon as ISIL is expelled from Mosul, Hawiga and Tel Afar. Early projections suggest that as many as 1.5 million to 2 million people will be encouraged to return to their areas of origin in 2017.

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