• An estimated 8.2 million people in Iraq remain in need of humanitarian assistance.
• In December 2015, over 3.2 million people are displaced across Iraq, more than a million additional people since the end of 2014.
• Approximately 1.5 million IDP children remain in need of protection and assistance. The UN believes 1.9 million children remain in areas under siege or controlled by armed groups where they cannot be easily reached by protection actors. In 2015 alone, the UN has verified 253 violations, affecting 598 children (348 boys, 145 girls and 105 gender unknown).
• Education needs remained high throughout the year, with schools frequently operating double-shifts to accommodate increased demand. UNICEF supported increased access to temporary learning spaces for over 317,000 displaced children, and continued to support provision of learning materials and teacher training.
• Health services suffered mid-year due to funding shortages. Despite restrictions, UNICEF-supported services continued for the youngest and most vulnerable without prolonged disruption.
• Armed conflict continues to cause destruction of water infrastructure, as mass prolonged displacement raises demand on remaining services; since the start of the crisis in 2014, UNICEF has supported provision of safe water for over 2.3 million IDPs.
• Over 23,000 vulnerable displaced families have received UNICEF- supported direct cash transfers that help people meet their basic needs with dignity.
• In 2015, an estimated 4.8 million vulnerable individuals on-the-move have received basic items for survival through the RRM Consortium, led by UNICEF and WFP, including populations in hard-to-reach areas.
• Over 91,000 IDPs including girls, boys, and pregnant women received warm winter clothing and shoes.
Situation Overview and Humanitarian Need
At the close of 2015, an estimated 8.2 million people across Iraq remain in need of humanitarian assistance, including internally displaced people (IDPs), Syrian refugees, returnees and host communities, as well as affected populations in Armed Opposition Group (AOG) held areas. The number of people in need is projected to rise to approximately 10 million in n 2016. As of December 2015, 3,235,476 individuals (539,246 families) were displaced across Iraq1, increased from 2.1 million at the end of 2014. Shifting conflict dynamics in 2015 have enabled over 468,000 internally displaced individuals to return to their places of origin (‘returnees’)2. However, return areas are often severely lacking in basic services. Approximately 1.5 million IDP children are in need of protection and assistance. The UN believes 1.9 million children remain in areas under siege or controlled by armed groups where they cannot be easily reached by protection actors. In the 2015-16 academic year, the Federal Ministry of Education reports that 5,351 school buildings were not available for teaching or learning activities due to the on-going conflict. In addition, according to the IOM/DTM, there are currently over 37,294 IDPs3 sheltering in schools in over 250 sites across Iraq, with the highest proportion in Anbar and Salah Al-Din governorates.4 Not only do many children lack safe places to live and to learn, they have been exposed to psychological distress through witnessing violence. The risks facing children in Iraq include sexual violence, interrupted schooling, and stress linked to disintegrated families, multiple displacements and breakdown of community structures.
With millions displaced across the country in thousands of locations, reaching all who need assistance has stretched the humanitarian community’s resources. There are 58 official IDP camps open across 15 of Iraq’s 18 governorates, with a further six (6) under construction; however in December 2015, IDPs living in camps represented only 10 percent of the total IDP population. Many IDPs have chosen, where possible, to live in rented accommodation or to stay with relatives. Seventeen (17) percent remain in ‘critical shelter’ in schools, informal settlements, and religious or unfinished buildings which may not offer adequate protection or security. The three governorates of Anbar, Baghdad, and Dahuk host over 1.5 million IDPs - nearly half the total displaced, while more than three-quarters of the displaced have fled from the two governorates worst-affected by armed conflict namely Anbar and Ninewa.5 In Anbar, many have been displaced within the governorate, moving from location to location as military and Armed Opposition Group conflict evolves. The takeover of the city of Ramadi in Anbar by the Islamic State group at the beginning of April 2015 displaced over half a million individuals.
Humanitarian access is restricted by continuing fighting. In the second half of 2015, lack of liquidity in banks affected the government’s ability to pay salaries for many civil servants, including teachers. The relationship between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central Government of Iraq remained tense. National budgeting was a key issue, including access to natural resources, mainly oil. Social unrest was also visible across Iraq. Demonstrators took to the streets in August to protest electricity cuts, lack of access to services, and delayed public sector pay. The effects of the overlapping Syrian refugee and internal displacement crises were highly visible across the country, with increased populations in areas in the north and centre of Iraq placing strain on local economies, services and infrastructure, stretching the government’s capacity and leaving many communities more vulnerable.
With degradation of infrastructure and overloading of public services, the risk of public health outbreaks remains high. The September 2015 cholera outbreak affected 17 of Iraq’s 18 Governorates. Over 2,800 cases6 were confirmed by the Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL); however, only 2 deaths were reported in Iraq, one in Baghdad and one in Babylon. UNICEF worked with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Ministry of Health and other relevant authorities to support community-level communication, water infrastructure repair and supply of water purification materials, as well as oral cholera vaccination (OCV). Although cholera cases have declined, general conditions are unlikely to improve quickly; UNICEF remains concerned about further disease outbreaks in 2016. Children were among the most vulnerable in the 2015 outbreak; of the confirmed cholera cases, 1 in 5 (21 percent) were children under the age of 10. Considering all these factors, Iraq seems certain to remain a challenging environment in 2016.