UNOPS-IDP project in northern Iraq

Towards the end of 2000, UNOHCI decided to investigate the possibility of assigning one of the UN Agencies, which was already operating in the northern region, to the task of establishing a comprehensive logistics system for the acquisition and distribution of relief items to IDP in northern Iraq. UNOPS organized a field mission, to analyse the situation on the ground and developed a comprehensive response to the urgent logistics needs there together with a more comprehensive approach for the overall needs of the IDP and other vulnerable groups there in the future. Following consultation with UNOHCI-North staff in the three governorates, UNOPS then produced a Project Document to address the short and medium term needs of the IDP population.

UNOPS-IDP commenced its work in northern Iraq at the end of 2000 and is now fully operational in the three northern Governorates of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dahuk. The UNOPS-IDP project co-operates closely with UNOHCI in order to cater for the needs of the most vulnerable groups in Northern Iraq, which include IDP, returnees, the destitute, female-headed households and so forth.

UNOPS-IDP has considerable experience working with an extensive network of local and international partners in Iraq. These partners include the local regional authorities in the north, local and international NGOs and other UN agencies.

Operational Sectors

UNOPS-IDP has operational experience and expertise in the following sectors in Iraq:

1/ Distribution of Relief Items

UNOPS-IDP distributes a wide range of relief items to IDPs and members of other vulnerable groups twice a year, once in the Summer and once in the Winter. The items distributed are determined according to the season and the results of the verification procedures, which are conducted prior to distribution.

By the end of February, 2003 a total of 49,878 families comprising 248,244 people in total had benefited from the distribution of relief items by the project.

2/ Rehabilitation of and WatSan Improvement in Transit Camps and Hard Shelters

UNOPS-IDP renovates the IDP camps and hard shelters and improves the WatSan facilities. Under this programme of activities 35 public buildings were renovated in Erbil. In addition renovation and major construction work has also been undertaken in collective towns such as Moqble and the Arab Singles Camp in Dahuk, Soran and Choman camps in Erbil, Salam, Topkhana and Tainal camps in Sulaymaniyah. Works undertaken have included the construction of external and internal sewage channels, cesspools, water systems, water tanks, wells, social and training centres and areas where the inhabitants can engage in leisure and sporting activities.

A central element in the above work is the active participation of the beneficiaries themselves in the implementation of the above work, whether on a paid or voluntary basis. UNOPS believes this is essential in order to provide IDP and other vulnerable groups with new skills so that they can increase their employment possibilities.

Services to Transit Camps and Hard Shelters

UNOPS-IDP is experienced in the establishment and management of transit camps for IDP in Iraq. For example, UNOPS-IDP set up a transit camp at Takya, Sulaymaniyah, in 2002, and also arranged for the provision of WatSan, hygiene and other services to this camp.

In addition, UNOPS-IDP provides a range of services to transit camps and hard shelters, which include amongst others:

  • Provision of potable water through hired water trucks
  • Provision of waste management services, including garbage collection, identification of suitable areas for storing rubbish and providing garbage containers for the storage of refuse.
  • Hiring trucks to empty septic tanks and cesspools
  • Opening and renovating internal roads in camps in order to facilitate the provision of the above-mentioned services
  • Transportation of families to camps, such as the 153 families transferred to Hetit camp in Dahuk

UNOPS-IDP also works together with the inhabitants of transit camps and hard shelters to improve the management of their camps and the co-ordination of any additional activities or services these camps might require.

The project has also promoted social activities for IDP and other vulnerable groups such as youth-at-risk and children with a disability. This has included activities such as painting courses, which have been run with the cooperation of the local authorities and engaging local artists and organisations to provide the courses. Following the recent successful conclusion of one such course in Erbil, which had been run together with the Department of Social Affairs, a public exhibition was organised for the paintings produced by the children during the course.

Socio-economic Activities

Given the huge problem experienced by members of the IDP and other vulnerable groups in reintegrating into society UNOPS-IDP has become more and more involved in assisting these people in this process. The project therefore has undertaken several in-depth analyses of IDP communities and other particularly vulnerable groups such as youth at risk, people with a disability etc in order to design programmes of assistance suited to their particular needs. in need of help in re-entering into mainstream society project is engaged in the provision of a range of economic and social services including:

  • Income generation activities
  • Vocational training, such as carpentry, domestic electrical installation, sewing, hairdressing, handicraft skills, tailoring. The project has also provided many of its trainees with specially prepared kits to enable them to
  • 'Social' training, such as health awareness courses and distribution of first aid kits, civil advocacy and literacy etc.

Preparedness for Future Situation in Iraq

It is estimated by UN planning that there could be potentially up to 3 million conflict-generated IDP throughout Iraq, with 1 million being in the 3 northern governorates and the remaining 2 million in the south and centre of the country. This figure is in addition to the approximated 800,000 IDP already living throughout Iraq prior to any conflict. Of the total 3 million people who might become IDP it is estimated that some 50% (1.5 million) will find shelter within their extended family structure, another 25% (750,000) will find refuge in existing shelters while the final 25% will be in need of temporary shelter such as tents.

Given the scale of this potential displacement and the possible aggravation in the IDP situation should neighbouring countries close their borders to Iraqis wishing to leave, it is imperative that an effective and responsive programme of humanitarian assistance for IDP be implemented immediately according to the needs in the field and UNOPS-IDP has developed its strategy with this in mind

UNOPS-IDP is the lead agency for the provision of assistance in northern Iraq including Non-Food Items (NFI) packages for one million IDP and emergency shelter for IDP throughout Iraq. These NFI packages include items such as blankets, plastic sheets, cooking stoves, kitchen sets, jerry cans for water and kerosene, hurricane lanterns, tarpaulins, packs of multipurpose soap and detergent, female hygiene packs, foam mattresses, blankets and bed sheets. UNOPS-IDP is also providing kerosene to IDP families.

During the conflict period itself UNOPS-IDP national employees are ensuring that the project's work continues. This involves the establishment of offices for cross border operations, co-ordination and re-entry in support of the ongoing activities in the following locations. Cross border operations will only commence upon receipt of the satisfactory security assessments have been carried out and clearance given by the Designated Official for Iraq.

Hasakah, Syria
Orumiyeh, Iran
Sanandaj or Orumiyeh, Iran
Dayraz Zawr, Syria
Ninewa, At Tamin, Salah Ad Din
Kermanshah, Iran
Baghdad, Diyala
Kermanshah, Iran
Upper South
Ahwaz, Iran
Lower South

These cross border operations will support and complement the UN structure planned for an immediate post-invasion Iraq, which foresees five areas, each consisting of 3 to 5 Governorates, as follows:

Erbil City
Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah
Ninewa, At Tamin, Salah Ad Din
Baghdad, Diyala, Al Anbar
Upper South
AL Hillah
Karbala, Babil, Al Najef, Wasit, Al Qadissiyah
Lower South
Al Basrah
Al Basrah, Maysan, Dhi Qar, Al Muthana

The Regional Coordination arrangements for re-entry to Iraq envisage that it will take place in three stages. It should be noted that it is unlikely that these three stages will be uniform throughout the country and it is possible that in one area the UN might be at stage 3 while in another at stage 1.

1/ This stage will consist solely of humanitarian assessment. The team engaged in this stage will be a small one composed of technical and sectoral experts and representatives from operational agencies, UNOHCI and UNSECOORD.

2/ A permanent UN presence will be established, preferably in the cities noted above where an area headquarters is indicated (eg Erbil, Baghdad) and from where assistance activities can be implemented. Governorate teams would be created at this stage but would operate from the area headquarters.

3/ The UN will expand its presence through the country by the establishment of governorate offices.

UNOPS-IDP is ideally placed to support this process given its extensive operational knowledge of Iraq, in-depth knowledge of the IDP situation on the ground, experience in implementing integrated projects and providing a wide range of emergency, social rehabilitation and reintegration support to IDP there. In the longer term, UNOPS-IDP is ready and prepared to rapidly expand its activities to the whole of Iraq after the immediate emergency humanitarian crisis is over. Given the highly trained and competent team that UNOPS-IDP has in place already in northern Iraq, the project is already planning on how it will best be able to contribute to ensuring the successful reintegration of all displaced people into the society at large.

To ensure that UNOPS-IDP has the internal capacity and resources necessary for such a task, the project has concentrated on developing its operational capacity, by delivering disaster and emergency preparedness training, pre-positioning stock of NFI items and tents and by working closely with the local authorities and other relevant bodies to prepare registration centres and camps sites for those who have been displaced.

As such, UNOPS-IDP has pre-positioned tents (and other shelter materials) and NFIs in Northern Iraq provide emergency assistance to at least 30,000 IDPs and other vulnerable persons. In addition, UNOPS is procuring and pre-positioning tents (and other shelter materials) for 150,000 persons and NFIs for 200,000 persons.

A significant part of the UNOPS-IDP strategy will be to work closely with all potential local and international partners, as the project is currently doing, in order to optimise the value of all our inputs and make sure that the needs of the IDP are well covered and avoid any duplication of efforts. UNOPS-IDP will therefore work in close consultation, collaboration and partnership with other UN Agencies, such as UNHCR, UNICEF, IOM etc under the guidance of HC and UNOHCI. The project has also forged alliances with NGOs active in the field such as Qandil, SC-UK and REACH and will continue to work closely with these organisations and other NGOs in the future.