The protracted humanitarian crisis in Iraq remains one of the largest and most volatile in the world. The COVID-19 outbreak hit a country already facing a humanitarian crisis, further deepening vulnerabilities and disrupting on-going efforts to deliver aid to the most vulnerable people in acute need of humanitarian assistance. The people most in need of such assistance continue to be those directly affected by the conflict against ISIL and recently affected by the pandemic compromising of (Internally displaced people, Syrian Refugees, Returnees and host communities) in and out of camps. Approximately 1.4 million remain in displacement, 70 per cent of whom have been displaced for more than three years.
Anticipated camp closures add a level of volatility to the already precarious lives of IDPs, and humanitarians will need to redouble efforts to maintain effective working relationships with government counterparts to ensure that such exercises are carried out with the safety and dignity of IDPs as they return back to their areas of origin at the foremost concern. The mechanism for granting access authorizations to humanitarian partners has been interrupted, a process already made burdensome by the growing fragmentation of access regimes around the country. Re-establishing a unified, predictable access mechanism so that humanitarian actors can efficiently deliver aid to vulnerable people in need is a matter of utmost urgency for 2021.
Iraq is host to a total of approximately 253,000 Syrian refugees including 154,000 Syrian children. They are expected to remain in Iraq, as only 2% of the refugees expressed their intention to return to Syria within the next year. The refugees live in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and they require continuous humanitarian assistance.
Much of what needs to be done in Iraq is beyond the scope of what the humanitarian community can do on its own, and will require additional time, money and attention from the government, donors and development partners. Massive needs remain for the clearance of explosive ordnance, social cohesion programmes, improvements to the legal and security systems, employment and livelihoods opportunities, restoration of utilities and basic services, access to quality health care and education, and the repair and reconstruction of war-damaged homes. Finding solutions to these enormous challenges must take place in tandem with humanitarian programming for Iraq to truly move forward, and outreach to stabilization and development partners is already underway and will continue in the year ahead.