Iraq: Droughts - DREF Operation n° MDRIQ013 - Operation update n° 1


Summary of major revisions made to emergency plan of action:

• This operation update informs on the exceptional extension of the implementation timeframe until 31 August 2022 due to the following:

o Procurement delays for the food parcels.

o NS delays in approval for hygiene kits procurement and signing of Framework Agreement with Financial Services Provider (FSP) for Cash assistance interventions.

o Cash voucher assistance activities were delayed due to the amendment in the agreement with the financial service provider.

o Operation activities were delayed due to the security situation in the implementation areas, COVID-19 restriction and Parliament Elections in the country, which impacted the sociopolitical situation and resulted in demonstrations and attacks disrupting the operation activities. This led to movement restrictions, operation delays and the occurrence of security incidents which limit the access to operation areas.

o Several other risks were involved for the delays, e.g. spread of Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) virus, compounding with the reoccurrence of sandstorms, heatwaves and cholera outbreak in the country.

Overall budget remains the same


Description of the disaster

Iraq is amid a water scarcity crisis stemming from record low levels of rainfall, poor water resource management, and reductions in water flow into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers from upstream countries. According to the United Nations Environmental Program Global Environment outlook1, Iraq, which loses about 100,000 acres of agricultural land per year has been identified as the fifth most vulnerable country globally to decreased water and food availability, extreme temperatures, and associated health problems. In addition, Iraq was identified as having the highest population growth rate in West Asia, which will further worsen the above conditions. Iraq is among the top 5 countries most affected by climate change, and the 39th most water stressed. Last year’s record low rainfall, the second driest season in 40 years has led to water shortages, desertification, and soil erosion due to unsustainable agricultural practices and shrinking, damaged vegetation cover. Conflict has devastated land and water sources in Iraq, causing further soil erosion and contamination, while political uncertainty poses challenges to environmental governance.

Earlier this year in April 2022: A senior adviser from the Iraqi water resources ministry warned that the country’s water reserves have decreased by half since last year, due to a combining effect of protracted drought, lack of rainfall and declining river levels, as officials continue to caution a deeply concerning environmental and humanitarian situation in Iraq. Water reserves are far lower than what the country had last year in 2021, by about 50 percent because of poor rainfall and water flow from neighbouring countries. Water levels in the Euphrates and Tigris rivers have dropped considerably in recent years. In the latest stark warning of the threats a heating climate poses to the country, a report by Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources towards the end of last year predicted that unless urgent action is taken to combat declining water levels, Iraq’s two main rivers will be entirely dry by coming years. Ministry spokesperson mentioned that drought is causing long-term public health problems, including shortages of drinking water and poor-quality drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, and food and nutrition which is serious concern for local communities.

17 June 2022, Baghdad: Iraq confronts multiple challenges caused and exacerbated by climate change, including prolonged heat waves, declining precipitation, loss of fertile land, salinisation, insufficient infrastructure investments, transboundary water shortages and a prevalence of dust storms, the UN and NGOs in Iraq mark World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought with a call for action to protect the country from the devastating impacts. Water scarcity, the removal of topsoil and decline in land productivity have led to reduced food production in Iraq. A 2021 survey carried out by the Iraqi government, covering 7 governorates, found 37% of wheat farmers and 30% of barley farmers suffered crop failure. At the same time, incomes have plummeted as farmers do not have the harvested crops to sell, which directly impact upon food security. The drastic decrease in farmland and biodiversity in agriculture, land degradation and the increase of sand dunes have all added to the strain, leading to animal migration and deaths. This is compounded with dust storms experienced so far in 2022, which have even caused human fatalities. The 4 million people living in Iraq’s downstream, Basra governorate are most affected by water scarcity. The marshlands of Iraq, with their deep cultural and human heritage, and natural resources for livelihoods, once represented the first line of defence against climatic changes and environmental damage. Reduced river water levels in the once great Tigris and Euphrates rivers have led to rising salt levels and deteriorating water quality. With annual evaporation up to 3 metres and lower river water, sea water has moved upriver, destroying 60,000 acres of agricultural land and 30,000 trees. As of March 2022, the displacement of an estimated 3,000 families due to drought and environmental degradation had been recorded across 8 governorates in central and southern Iraq. Recent studies have shown water scarcity to be one of the primary drivers of migration from rural to urban areas, alongside challenges to sustainable agriculture and food security.2 Drought conditions in Iraq have been exacerbated by the threat of climate change, which has contributed to record low rainfall and increasing temperatures throughout the country. The drought has affected northern Iraq since early 2021, while governorates in the South have witnessed decreased water supply and quality for several years. Crop and livestock production have since plummeted, impacting vulnerable communities that have been affected by conflict and displacement over the last several years. At least seven million people in Iraq have been affected by the drought in recent times which took a massive toll on access to water, food, basic services such as electricity, in addition to farmer livelihoods. Areas of intervention that were identified by Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) according to vulnerability criteria are, Basra, Ninewa, and Diyala. More information is available under the “needs analysis and Scenario planning section.