The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) currently hosts 96 percent of Syrian refugees in Iraq. In response to the high influx of refugees following the crisis in Syria, the Kurdistan Regional Government established nine refugee camps to support the most vulnerable who are unable to cover the costs of rent and utilities. Overall, 37 percent still reside in these protracted refugee camps while 63 percent share public services with host and other displaced communities and cover their own costs. WFP provides food assistance to 75 percent of in-camp refugees while UNHCR provides cash assistance for Basic Needs and Winterization to 37 percent of the out-of-camp population, based on the Vulnerability Assessment Tool (VAT) conducted in 2019 and a vulnerability prediction model.
SOCIO-ECONOMIC VULNERABILITIES AMONG SYRIAN REFUGEES
The 2021 Multi-Sector Needs Assessment (MSNA) conducted on a representative sample of in-camp and out-of-camp refugees nationwide and host communities in KR-I, confirmed that economic vulnerability is the root cause of harmful coping mechanisms and most sectoral needs of refugees in Iraq. This primarily results from a lack of income-generation opportunities due to the negative impact of COVID-19 on the already unfavorable economic environment in Iraq. The devaluation of the Iraqi Dinar in 2021 furtherly deteriorated the purchasing power of Iraqi and refugees alike, due to an increase of market prices, while earning values remained the same. Data showed the higher reliance of refugees on temporary work (93 percent) compared with host communities (50 percent). Given that temporary labor pays less and is less secure than regular employment, this disparity explains refugees’ higher reliance on debt, and lower household income compared to host communities. In-camp refugees have fewer or lower-paying livelihoods opportunities than out-of-camp refugees, as reflected in the lower average income from employment sources reported by in-camp refugees (IQD 258.49) compared with out-of-camp refugees (IQD 436,271).
FOOD INSECURITY AMONG SYRIAN REFUGEES
The 2021 MSNA highlighted a deterioration of food security among refugees.
Only 14 percent of in-camp and 43 percent of out-of-camp refugees scored as “Food Secure” in 2021, compared with 36 percent and 74 percent respectively in 2020. A large proportion became “Marginally Secure”, therefore at risk of food insecurity. Based on WFP’s CARI method, the Food Security Index scoring of in-camp refugees indicates lower food security than out-of-camp refugees. Incamp refugees showed higher expenditure on food compared with total household expenditure (Food Share) and a lower Food Consumption Score than out-of-camp refugees. An increase in the use of harmful copying strategies to procure food, such as buying food on credit, reducing expenditure on basic needs, selling assets, child labour and children’s drop out of education, was identified among both groups and slightly higher among in-camp refugees.
Higher food insecurity among in-camp refugees is in line with past assessments conducted by WFP and UNHCR, including the Joint Vulnerability Assessment 2018, where higher socio-economic vulnerabilities, such as lower income opportunities and job skills, illiteracy, and large household size, were identified as key drivers of food insecurity among in-camp refugees.