Humanitarian needs in Iraq continue to be driven by the effects of conflict and displacement. Addressing the continuing consequences of the 2014-2017 crisis and related displacement—as well as the compounding impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic—are the central priorities for humanitarian action in Iraq in 2021. Approximately 1.2 million people remain internally displaced within Iraq – more than half of them for more than four years – and 4.1 million people need some form of humanitarian assistance. Some 2.4 million people are in acute need of assistance, an increase since 2020 attributed to the negative socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19. The closure of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the second half of 2020 expanded the operational focus of humanitarian partners on out-of-camp displacement and the significant humanitarian needs of returnees in underserved locations.
In 2021, transitioning IDPs towards durable solutions remains at the top of the United Nations’ priorities in Iraq. Although efforts are underway to rebuild the country and jumpstart local economies, significant barriers to return endure, including security concerns; lack of social cohesion; issues related to documentation; lack of livelihoods and services; unexploded ordnance, and destroyed or damaged housing. Accessing people in need has become more challenging than at any other time since combat operations against ISIL, due both to administrative impediments and movement restrictions imposed by COVID-19.
With protracted displacement expected to endure in the coming years, addressing the protection concerns of Iraq’s IDPs will remain a primary focus for humanitarians. The protection needs of the IDP population are diverse: IDPs cite the lack of employment/livelihood opportunities among their top concerns, along with irregular access to food, health, shelter and education. For IDPs living outside of traditional camp settings, all of these uncertainties are multiplied. Special attention is needed for families with perceived affiliations to extremist groups, who are often subjected to discrimination in camps and stigma from their communities.
Other challenges are also present, including protracted political deadlock and the delayed implementation of recovery and resilience activities. In parallel, Iraq is prone to a daunting set of environmental challenges and natural hazards. Humanitarians must undertake collective preparedness and contingency planning to meet identifiable risks which could impact the realization of their mandate.
In 2021, the humanitarian community will ‘lean forward’ into the nexus between these humanitarian, stabilization and development sectors, in order to provide maximum support towards durable solutions. Inter-connected strategic-level coordination will be facilitated through the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General/Resident Coordinator/ Humanitarian Coordinator.