Iraq has experienced several waves of violence over the past six years, leading to more than six million people being displaced.11 While a majority of households have returned to their areas of origin, 1.4 million people remain internally displaced.12 Returns and attempted returns to areas of origin from which families had fled during the conflict continue to raise the issue of safe and durable returns, while the recent shift towards slowed rates of return since mid-2018 continues to have protracted displacement implications for large populations of IDPs living in and out of camps. Additionally, camp closures create new issues for IDP households that are unable to return to their area of origin or find other durable solutions.
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 localized 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.
Finally, the outbreak of COVID-19 in Iraq represents a serious emerging public health crisis that could aggravate the humanitarian situation and exacerbate existing vulnerabilities in health, education, protection, livelihoods and other areas of well-being13 . The first case of COVID-19 in Iraq was recorded in February 2020 and as of June 26, the World Health Organization had recorded 41,193 confirmed and 20,775 active cases as well as 1,559 deaths related to COVID-1914 . 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. Ongoing access constraints as well as an increase in security incidents have further restricted the provision of humanitarian aid to populations in need. IDPs and returnees are considered to face heightened and unique threats from COVID-19 which are attributable to pre-existing vulnerabilities related to their displacement status, poor infrastructure in their areas of inhabitance and generally limited access to basic services. In light of mobility restrictions and school closures, there are also ongoing protection concerns related to GBV as well as social and psychological distress amongst children.
In short, Iraq today presents a case of complex intervention where many sectors in the country continue to require humanitarian programming. At the same time, the context remains extremely volatile with recurring waves of violence and persisting political and economic instability. Compounded by a shift towards camp closures and consolidations since August 2019, such an environment makes it difficult to understand needs, while anticipating population movements and identifying areas to target. Based on this complexity there is a need for regular and reliable inter-sectoral data to be gathered for relevant population groups in order to support humanitarian actors in Iraq in developing strategies that are based on evidence and that address the needs of people affected by the 2014 displacement crisis. As such, there is a need to conduct an annual MCNA, for which REACH has experience in collaborating on with OCHA and the Assessment Working Group (AWG) since 2013.
This year’s MCNA VIII is intended to provide an overall understanding of household vulnerabilities, their most pressing needs and the severity of these needs, both within each sector and from a cross-sectoral perspective, and particularly in light of the rapidly changing humanitarian context following the outbreak of COVID-19.