Between late 2013 and 2017, intensification of conflict in north and central Iraq has resulted in large scale displacement. Following the de-escalation of active military operations against ISIL, Iraq has witnessed an increase in numbers of IDPs returning to their Area of Origin (AoO). Although many have since already returned, as of the beginning of 2021 approximately 1.2 million people remain internally displaced – with more than half of them for more than four years, and 4.1 million people needing some form of humanitarian assistance, including 2.4 million people with acute humanitarian needs. This includes 187,555 individuals that reside in 29 IDP camps, or composite camp areas.
The round VII of REACH-CCCM Intentions Assessment in April 2021, which looked at 15 prioritised camps, found that only 1% of IDPs intended to return over the twelve months following data collection. Considering the rapidly-changing context of the crisis with the closure and consolidation of camps from August-December 2020 as well as new displacements and waves of returns throughout Iraq, including the movement of Iraqis previously in Syrian camps to camps in Iraq, up-to-date information about the needs of IDPs and available infrastructure and services in camps is necessary in order to address these needs as well as plan the camp strategy for the coming months. The conditions in camps differ greatly from one camp to another as well as between governorates, thus regular monitoring of conditions is essential to strategise appropriately the consolidation of some camps and closure of others in the coming year.
While the humanitarian situation in Iraq has been gradually improving over the past two years, the transitional process has been defined by persisting political instabilities, resurgences of localised conflicts, and regional insecurities that are not directly related to the protracted displacement crisis. The large scale protests that broke out in Central Southern cities in late 2019, the Turkish military offensive in Northeast Syria, the heightened tensions between the United States and Iran and an increase in attacks of non-state armed groups on civilian and military targets have led to a substantial worsening of the political and security situation in Iraq and have added another layer of complexity to the humanitarian response. The current economic situation in Iraq is also characterised by a currency devaluation, due to oil-price collapse in 2020, happening for the first time in decades, which further shrinks the economy of the country and impacts the humanitarian situation.
Furthermore, the outbreak of COVID-19 in Iraq represents a public health crisis that could further aggravate the humanitarian situation and exacerbate existing vulnerabilities. The first case of COVID-19 in Iraq was recorded in February 2020 and as of 10 June, the World Health Organisation had recorded 1,237,856 confirmed as well as 16,614 deaths related to COVID-19. While the Iraqi government was able to largely contain the spread of the virus in the early stages, government-imposed lockdowns, and movement restrictions have inhibited access of millions of Iraqis to livelihood opportunities, education, and essential health services. The recent increase in COVID-19 cases throughout Iraq, as well as the ongoing access constraints have further restricted the provision of humanitarian aid to populations in need.