- Of the estimated 1.6 million Iraqis uprooted during the height of sectarian violence in the post-2006 period, the Government of Iraq estimates that some 1.4 million people remain internally displaced. Moreover, host government figures suggest that an estimated 1.7 million Iraqis have sought refuge in neighbouring countries and beyond, especially to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon; although only a fraction have registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
- The rate of returns of IDPs and Iraqi refugees remains low, given that conditions in many parts of the country are not yet conducive for safe and sustainable returns. This is due to a lack of security, reliable basic services and livelihood opportunities.
- Acute pockets of vulnerability exist not only for the uprooted populations, but also for many host communities that require humanitarian assistance and protection, particularly for female-headed households, children and some minorities.
- In addition to the impact of ongoing violence, Iraq is also susceptible to droughts, flash floods and other environmental hazards that have seriously tested the resilience of national response capacities.
OCHA faces the following main coordination challenges in Iraq in 2010:
- International staff are afforded limited access to operations and remote programming. The OCHA Country Office of Iraq is based in Amman, Jordan. A minimal number of OCHA international staff is based in Baghdad and Erbil, with restricted movement due to the high security measures related to United Nations personnel. Access to Baghdad has been restricted due to limited slots available in the mission compound within the Green Zone.
- OCHA is operating alongside the integrated United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). It has a similar coordination mandate requiring increased focus on ensuring complementarities and coherence with other aspects of the overall United Nations assistance strategy for Iraq.
OCHA is called upon to play an important role in identifying humanitarian gaps and coordinating/facilitating humanitarian responses in the 18 governorates across Iraq. With the improved security situation, the accompanying spirit of openness, and the presence of OCHA national staff in all governorates, OCHA is well positioned to gather a more accurate picture of humanitarian needs, responses and gaps. OCHA can also support and liaise with the mission (mainly operating with its international staff out of UNAMI hubs or Forward Operating Bases) and the UNCT in all governorates for effective humanitarian action. This will be done through the HC, who is also the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG) and RC, through participation in joint United Nations planning and coordination mechanisms, as well as improved collaboration via the Inter-Agency Analysis Unit.
In 2010, OCHA will continue operating under tight security restrictions laid out by the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS). To overcome a fragmented operation, OCHA will strengthen its field presence with improved working conditions for its national staff. To identify humanitarian response gaps, OCHA will improve its collection and analysis of critical quantitative and qualitative information on humanitarian needs in cooperation with the government, UNCT and NGOs. OCHA will identify humanitarian responses through its 3W database in all 18 governorates. Through its ERF, OCHA will disburse up to $12 million in rapid grants to the United Nations and NGOs, basing resource allocation on increasingly tightened needs assessments and a coordinated sector response plan.
The above map provides a snapshot of the OCHA field presence throughout the 18 governorates of Iraq. In the case of Baghdad and Erbil, international OCHA staff are co-located within the UNAMI Regional Hubs. Across the other governorates, only OCHA national staff are permanently present and they remain independent of UNAMI sub-offices, but share coordination linkages and reporting lines with UNAMI through OCHA and the DSRSG/RC/HC.
As a means of enhancing Iraqi preparedness, OCHA will continue to be involved in DRR in close cooperation with the UNCT and the government. Following a joint OCHA/UNDP DRR assessment, OCHA will support the implementation of the recommended DRR action plan, including a DRR workshop at the Deputy Minister level to ensure a broad-based government buy-in of DRR. In addition, OCHA has been assigned the Emergency Response part of the Special Representative of the Secretary- General’s five pillars in response to the problem and cumulative impact of the ongoing drought on the Iraqi population.
If the humanitarian situation in 2010 does not drastically deteriorate in view of: (i) the upcoming parliamentary elections in January 2010; (ii) the ongoing Multi-National Force I drawdown; and, (iii) current Arab/Kurdish tensions over the disputed internal boundaries, OCHA will prepare to scale down its operations by the end of 2010. This would enable OCHA to “right-size” the number and capacities of any remaining OCHA staff in 2011 and beyond in support of the DSRSG/RC/HC and humanitarian country team.