Although major military operations concluded in late 2017, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq is far from over. The toll of four years of intensive combat on Iraq’s civilian population has been enormous. Of the almost 6 million people displaced since the rise of ISIL in 2014, some 2.6 million remain displaced at the beginning of 2018.
Humanitarian operations in Iraq are now entering a new phase, however. As many as two million displaced Iraqis may return to their homes during 2018. Although major efforts are being made by the Government of Iraq and Kurdistan Regional Government to incentivize and facilitate returns, many vulnerable families are unable to return without assistance, and ethnic tension and significant explosive hazard contamination is preventing returns in some locations. The humanitarian community continues to advocate against forced, premature, or obstructed returns.
Consequently, many people in Iraq remain displaced and in need, and vulnerable people still require assistance, even when they return home. Every effort is made to ensure services continue in camps and in areas with high concentrations of vulnerable people. Protection services remain paramount. Without these services, families may be unable to return home, or risk doing so in unsustainable conditions. To align humanitarian response with sustainable support, the humanitarian community gives high priority to ensuring that vulnerable people can access the Government’s social protection floor.
Despite the end of major anti-ISIL operations, multiple, unpredictable volatile dynamics are expected to continue throughout 2018. Asymmetric attacks cannot be ruled out, particularly in areas where ISIL retains local support, and other sources of instability may emerge. Supporting humanitarian operations in Iraq therefore remains vital. Many lives were saved during the humanitarian response to the Mosul emergency, and throughout the past four years of active conflict. Many families are now rebuilding from the ruins and must be supported in this transition. Failure to do so may risk losing many of the gains that have been made.