Iraq: Suffering predicted to worsen as displacement mounts

17 January, 2017
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Credit: UNHCR/Ivor Prickett

The numbers are staggering. In 2016, 650,000 people in Iraq were forcibly displaced by conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The year before 1.4 million were forced to flee. In 2014, 2 million people were displaced by fighting. In short, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq is one of the largest and most volatile in the world.

Each of the nine major military campaigns during 2016 has created fresh displacements and the current operations to retake Mosul are no exception. Thus far, 148,000 have been displaced from Mosul, and depending on the intensity and length of fighting – both in Mosul and also Hawiga and Tel Afar – as many as 1.2 million additional civilians may be forced from their homes. Military sources confirm that close to 700,000 people live in the densely populated western sections of Mosul that have not yet been re-taken from ISIL’s control. Nearly every family there, whether displaced or not, is vulnerable.

The current humanitarian crisis is compounded by three years of continuous conflict and economic stagnation that have impacted nearly every aspect of Iraqi society. 

2.9 million people are currently food insecure 10.3 million people require urgent health care
8.3 million people need water and sanitation 4.7 million people need shelter and household goods
3.5 million children need education support 8.9 million people need protection support 

People’s living conditions are expected to worsen until they can return to their homes and start living and working again in safety. Some measurable improvements in humanitarian conditions are expected in late 2017 but in some sectors, improvement is not projected until well into 2018.


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