Iraq + 1 more

Iraq: Humanitarian Response Plan 2016 (December 2015)


Overview of the crisis

The humanitarian crisis in Iraq is highly complex, volatile, becoming protracted and expected to widen and worsen in the year ahead.

Iraq’s crisis is driven by unpredictable, massive waves of displacement caused by armed conflict. From January 2014 to November 2015, 3.2 million people were forced to flee their homes in several big waves of displacement, and multiple smaller ones.
An additional 1.1 million people were already displaced from earlier sectarian violence in 2006-2008. Depending on the intensity of fighting and the scale of violence in the months ahead, 11 million Iraqis, perhaps even 12 to 13 million, may need some form of humanitarian assistance by the end of 2016. More than 500,000 people are expected to flee their homes during the year, the majority from towns and districts along the Mosul and Anbar corridors. Perhaps an additional 1 million will be impacted by the battle for Mosul. Host communities throughout hard-hit areas, most particularly in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I), are likely to fall below the self-supporting threshold, forced to seek aid, even as they share their few assets with displaced families.

With conditions worsening, in many places dramatically, people are struggling desperately to cope. One of the most dramatic changes in Iraq is the exponential deterioration in the condition of host communities. Families who have generously opened their homes and have been sharing their resources with relatives and neighbours are rapidly plunging into poverty.
During the past 12 months, the debt burden has quadrupled in Kurdistan and in the Diyala and Ninewa governorates. In numerous neighbourhoods, including in Dahuk, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk, families are relying on negative, even irreversible coping strategies. Food consumption within the most vulnerable families is declining and, very worrying, child labour and early marriage are on the rise.1

The situation of displaced families remains dramatic.
Spread across the country and living in more than 3,500 locations, 85 per cent of displaced people are in debt, most unpayable, locking families into generations of impoverishment and immiseration. Forty per cent of all displaced families still require urgent shelter support, among whom 645,000 people are surviving in unfinished and abandoned buildings, makeshift collective centres and spontaneous settlements. With the social protection floor contracting and unemployment affecting hundreds of thousands of workers, social tensions are rising, in some places sharply. As many as 1.7 million people are likely to be impacted by social conflict.

An entire generation of children is at risk. One million schoolage children, 20 per cent of the cohort, are out of school. Outside of camps, only 30 per cent of displaced children attend school; inside camps, 45 per cent attend. Children are the most heavily impacted by the crisis; grave violations of children’s rights have increased a staggering 99 per cent in the period from June 2014 to May 2015, compared to the same period in the previous year.

Trauma is widespread, making protection one of the most important aspects of the crisis. Horrific violence, mass executions, systematic rape, and torture are being used against communities in areas controlled by ISIL. About 3 million people are estimated to live under ISIL control. Few are allowed to leave; those who manage pay exorbitant sums and are often forced to leave family members behind to uncertain fates. Gender-based violence (GBV) is widespread and devastating. Families who are displaced frequently lack documentation and restrictions on their movement are commonplace in certain areas.

More than 500,000 people are expected to flee their homes during the year, the majority from towns and districts along the Mosul and Anbar corridors.

The situation in return areas is highly variable. When territories change hands, retaliation against people seen as sympathizers of the other side is arbitrary, swift and brutal. In areas retaken from ISIL, the pace and timing of returns is determined by factors related to security, services and compensation. Each district is impacted by complex internal dynamics, which are mediated and adjudicated by a dense network of officials, security forces and local elites. In some cases, arrangements are agreed quickly and displaced families return relatively soon and safely. In the majority of newly retaken towns, however, the stabilization phase is fraught and lengthy, delaying returns. Although authorities in host communities are expected to continue to provide safe havens, many are anxious for displaced people to return as soon as an area is retaken. Struggling to provide services to their own residents and worried about increasing social tensions, local authorities in host communities are starting to pressure families to return, even when conditions are unsafe, and evictions of displaced are on the rise. Thousands of displaced families feel trapped, unwanted where they are, but unwilling to return to unstable, destroyed towns and villages.

Unable to sustain their families, worried about safety in their home communities, with their children out of school, and faced with limited employment options, people throughout the country are making the life-changing decision to embark on dangerous journeys to leave Iraq. The number of Iraqis who see emigration as their best option is increasing in direct proportion to the number who see little hope in their future.

The Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government have played central roles in addressing the crisis, but will have few resources in the year ahead. The Government’s social protection floor, although under severe strain, has been crucial for supporting displaced families, many of whom receive cash grants, food parcels through the Public Distribution System (PDS), health care, education, and shelter. However, persistently low oil prices are crippling both governments. Public revenues have plummeted by more than 40 per cent; investment projects have been cancelled, operational costs are being reduced across all ministries in both the federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and payrolls have been delayed for months. Hundreds of thousands of workers are without jobs, including in the construction sector, a major source of employment in the KR-I. Widespread agricultural shortages are likely, with large parts of Iraq’s cereal production belt remaining under ISIL control.

Because of its complexity and breadth, the Iraq crisis requires differentiated strategies. This means that humanitarian organizations must be ready to provide different kinds of support depending on the needs of affected people. Newly displaced people, for example, are highly vulnerable, requiring emergency assistance as they seek safe haven and struggle to re-establish their households. Many returnees are also highly vulnerable, relocating back into towns and villages that have been destroyed, are insecure and where basic services are not yet being provided.
People faced with protracted displacement are increasingly destitute; few are able to find employment or generate income and virtually all displaced families are depleting their savings and selling their assets. Host communities are becoming equally destitute, struggling to share their own assets and retain jobs, as cheaper workers compete with them in an ever-tightening labour market. For protracted displaced families and host communities, emergency assistance is not always appropriate; innovative resilience programmes to help families and communities cope with and recover from the crisis are likely to have far greater impact.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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