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Multi-Sector Needs Assessment of Syrian Refugees Residing in Host Communities: Iraq Assessment Report, April 2015

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This assessment was conducted with a view to firstly establishing a baseline in the aftermath of the internal displacement crisis across all sectors of intervention and second, enabling a time-series analysis once a third MSNA is conducted later in 2015. Given that the second round of the MSNA was larger in geographical coverage and sampled at a lower administrative boundary, significant comparisons cannot be made between the first and second rounds. Any comparisons presented here are indicative estimates only.

Given the scale of the displacement crisis, the combined weight of all displaced groups is and will continue to exact a toll on the already beleaguered public and private infrastructure of the KRI. With all borders – internal and external – tightly controlled and the arrival of new entries strictly regulated, the absorptive capacity of the KRI is not diminishing, it is likely exhausted. Moreover, with mounting pressure on employment and incomes, natural resources and housing, there has been a concerted effort to establish parallel structures and services to manage the needs of displaced groups in formal refugee and IDP camps. Ultimately, however, camps cannot house the totality of those displaced within the confines of the KRI and the additional demand that they generate for natural resources and services will have to eventually be met in non-camp settings, too.

That said, even as the combined effects of the displacement crises continue to heighten vulnerability and risk across all groups, the Syrian sub-population faces a particularly acute set of constraints. Although they maintain ethnic and cultural ties with the Kurdish majority of the KRI, they remain externally displaced and without the basic rights enshrined in citizenship (such as land ownership, for instance) or to a much lesser extent, residency, meaning that access to meaningful, sustainable employment and capital is, by default, limited. As they are progressively substituted or competed with by internally displaced Iraqis in segments of the labour market where Syrian refugees traditionally dominate – low waged, agricultural and skilled labour, for instance – their abilities to service their own needs will likely diminish, with negative consequences across all other welfare outcomes and indicators. This phenomenon is already embryonic and likely growing in sectors such as food security and livelihoods, where incomes are key to self-sufficiency.

Finally, inequalities persist even within the non-camp population in that there seems to be a direct and positive correlation between the proportion of Syrian refugees that a given region hosts and the scope of service delivery and aid allocated. The regions which host more refugees are better off as the humanitarian response naturally gravitates towards a bigger caseload, leaving those residing elsewhere, namely in Sulaymaniyah, at the fringes of the intervention. This applies to services such as vaccinations but also has tangible effects on incomes and food security, both of which are more fragile in Sulaymaniyah.

It is thus vital that future programming builds the capacity of refugees to avoid dependency on depleting humanitarian assistance, whilst pre-empting social conflict that might arise due to competition between different communities in the KRI. With this in mind, this assessment seeks to identify the predominant vulnerabilities and risks – as well as their determinants – across 20 districts of the KRI. The focus is primarily on areas that can contribute to resilience-based and sustainable programming, in order to better inform the humanitarian community and enable effective prioritization of assistance. The previous MSNA highlighted key issues that warrant particular attention, including food insecurity, insufficient and now declining incomes, strikingly low attendance rates in formal education and poor access to health services. This round of the MSNA has made it clear that each of these continues to be an issue for the Syrian refugee population as a whole and will attempt to build upon previous reasoning to determine why this is the case.