OCHA Iraq coordinates effective and principled humanitarian action, advocates for the rights of people in need, promotes preparedness and prevention, and facilitates sustainable solutions. With dozens of staff based around the country, OCHA maintains an agile and strategic footprint in Iraq, with its main office in Baghdad, regional office in Erbil, and sub-offices in Erbil, Dahuk, Ninewa, and Kirkuk, as well as a dynamic presence in Anbar, Salah al-Din, and Sulaymaniyah.
The humanitarian context in Iraq underwent a substantial evolution in 2018, as the country gradually transformed from a nation gripped by the armed conflict against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to one where normal life was slowly but surely resuming. Programming pivoted from emergency aid delivery during armed conflict to addressing the needs of millions of IDPs, returnees and other vulnerable Iraqis living in areas impacted by the military operations against ISIL. There are approximately 1.8 million IDPs in Iraq (out of a total of 6 million persons displaced during the height of the conflict); more than 4 million people have returned to their communities, but return rates have levelled out in recent months. Of those who remain displaced, over half have been displaced for more than three years.
Although major 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 destroyed or damaged housing. With protracted displacement expected to endure in the coming years, addressing the protection concerns of Iraq’s IDPs is a primary focus for humanitarians, and working towards durable solutions for this population will be at the forefront of humanitarian programming in 2019. 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.