In 2021, more than three years after the end of military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Iraq remains a fragile humanitarian context of ‘’protracted, widespread internal displacement, ongoing but limited returns due to security concerns, disrupted access to basic services and destroyed livelihoods in the area of origin, and increased protection risks’’. 11 Since 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.These trends have been further exacerbated by a dual shock of the collapse of oil prices in 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. 13 While the Iraqi government was able to largely contain the spread of the virus in the early stages, governmentimposed movement restrictions, together with the temporary closure of shops and non-essential businesses have negatively impacted the ability to meet basic needs and to develop livelihoods, while increasing the number of people with severe needs14 . The current economic situation in Iraq is also characterized by a currency devaluation, due to oil-price collapse, happening for the first time in decades, 15 which further shrinks the economy of the country. In addition, the closure of internally dispaced person (IDP) camps, in October 2020, across Iraq, amplified already-existing population movements, while triggering premature returns and secondary displacement.
For humanitarian actors, this has expanded the focus on out-of-camp displacement, along with needs of returnees in underserved locations.
While the national landscape is now characterized by new elements, such as COVID-19, complicating the humanitarian response, ‘’transitioning IDPs towards durable solutions remains at the top of the United Nations’ priorities in Iraq’’ this year.
This is expected to translate in overcoming significant barriers to return, rebuilding the country and enhancing local economy.
Challenges are expected for 2021, including the potential ones related to upcoming parliamentary elections, that will take place in October. These will happen in a context of protracted political instabilities, similar to protests between 2019 and start of 2021, resulting in possible delays in implementing recovery activities.