The recent security threat on the Northern Kurdistan Region may be seen to have reduced momentarily, but the IDP situation is far from over, says Michael Bates, DRC country Director.
Since the beginning of 2014, the political and humanitarian context in Iraq has significantly deteriorated. With ISIL taking over Anbar in the early part of the year, the crisis has since spread to several other governorates including Diyala, Babil, Salahadin, Kirkuk and Ninewa. Major cities and strategic national asset and installation have come under the control on IS forces causing interruption of economic activities.
The protracted violence in Iraq has generated massive displacement of the population and interrupted economic activities. It is estimated that 17 million people (53.7% of Iraq’s total population of 31.7 million) have become affected by displacement. While the situation remains fluid and numbers cannot be independently verified, thousands of families, many of them women, children and the elderly are on the move, facing secondary displacement in most instances. According to the UN, approximately 1.45 million people are currently displaced in Iraq - this number, not including the previous case load of approximately 1.13 million people, who were reportedly displaced by previous conflicts.
“People fleeing the conflict need free passage to areas where they can find safety; and at the same time, humanitarian action must be swift to address urgent life-saving needs such as water, food and shelter,” says Michael Bates.
There are many organizations on the ground; the humanitarian response seems to be more organized but, access to the affected areas and the stranded group of minorities, who were directly targeted by IS forces, is still a difficult challenge for the relief agencies.
DRC emergency teams, located in Erbil and Duhok, have been working in coordination with the UN and local authorities. 450 hygiene kits, and more than 2,100 food parcels and bottled water have been distributed to approximately 14,700 individuals. The distributions took place in Zummar, Sinjar and Banjet Kandala transit camp, about 50km north of Duhok.
DRC ENHANCES IDP PROTECTION WITH CASH
Nearly 46,800 newly displaced people from Anbar and Mosul have sought haven in Baghdad. The fragile security situation and sectarian tension have made some families displaced multiple times.
DRC began implementing a protection monitoring project in seven IDP-concentrated neighborhoods of Baghdad, since March 2014. The funding for this project, coming from DANIDA, has enabled DRC document 1,392 individuals (comprising 49.5 % males and 50.5% females) with special protection needs.
DRC’s intervention also includes cash assistance and referrals, for families with extremely critical needs such as the lack of proper identification documents to support their IDP registration process and those susceptible to dangerous coping strategies including borrowing and selling household items to address their needs for food, housing, medical as well as school fees for their children.
More than USD 67,700 has been disbursed to 259 extremely vulnerable families and another 100 have been referred to receive additional legal, medical and psycho-social assistance from partnering organizations including the IRC, Mercy Hands and DARI.
PROMOTING IDPs’ RIGHTS THROUGH ADVOCACY
DRC has conducted four community dialogue meetings, promoting IDP rights and advocating for access to employment opportunities for women and youth.
More than 120 people have participated in the discussions so far, involving local authorities, religious and civil society leaders as well as IDPs and prominent members of the host communities.
Local communities that were receptive from the inception of the IDP crisis are now becoming intolerant and resentful toward the same people [IDPs] with whom they had generously shared food, accommodation and household provisions.
The meetings provide an opportunity for men and women to discuss some of the social barriers inhibiting the rights of IDPs and their access to employment.
The recommendations coming from these meetings are being developed into key messages, which will be promoted through SMS communication to reach out to a wider audience of about 100,000 people, mainly in communities that are hosting IDPs.
DRC STAYING COMMITED TO SYRIAN REFUGEES RESPONSE…
With the Syrian crisis lasting well over three years, no one can easily predict the end game. DRC is staying committed to a multi-pronged response, which it started in 2013, at the height of the refugee influx to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Right from the start, DRC’s intervention approach has been a fusion of emergency assistance and durable solution programs. Primarily, large amounts of resources are spent on addressing the refugees’ needs for shelter, water and sanitation, and other core relief items. At the same time, DRC is giving significant attention to promoting refugees’ self-reliance, through access to sustainable livelihoods opportunities; and also, precluding social tension by integrating the needs of the most vulnerable host community members with the refugee assistance program.
According to the UNHCR RRP6, there are about 220,210 Syrians refugees registered in Iraq, with 97% residing in the Kurdistan Region. 60% of refugees in Kurdistan live in urban communities and the rest are spread over ten refugee camps.
DRC assumes camp coordination and camp management responsibilities in two of the camps (Basirma and Qushtapa located in the Governorate of Erbil), and supports non-camp refugees in urban communities of Duhok and Erbil. In all settings, DRC’s assistance from January to August, 2014 has covered 9,274 refugees (60% males and 40 % females) through one or more interventions.
Improving shelter for the refugees
The completion of 144 shelter slabs and 36 kitchen areas in Qushtapa Camp was an immediate intervention to reduce the effects of the extremely hot summer and also help to insulate refugees from the cold, rainy and muddy conditions experienced during the winter period. With utilities like water, electricity and sewage system yet to be installed, the improvement of these shelters [when completed] will have remarkable impact on the quality of life of the refugees.
WASH and Core Relief Items
Distributing Core Relief Items (CRI) and maintaining adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services are part of the critical camp management roles of DRC. 4,563 individuals received 912 UNICEF baby kits and 1,021 UNICEF adult kits; while another 322 cleaning kits for household-shared latrines and showers were distributed. The implementation of hygiene promotional activities through community participation provides a means for the refugees to earn income.
A total of 65 refugees have been involved in cash-for-work activities, assisting in cleaning, promoting hygiene education, testing water quality and installing garbage collection points around the camps.
Over a period of five months (February to June, 2014) DRC distributed 205.635 liters of fuel to a population of 8,110 individuals in Basirma and Qushtapa Camps.
Supporting sustainable livelihoods
Employment through job placements and development of small businesses underpin DRC's durable solution strategy for Syrian refugees in the governorates of Duhok and Erbil. According to a preliminary assessment conducted by REACH in 2013, around 30% of Syrian households in the KRI could not afford their basic needs and 50% had to borrow money to keep on surviving. With only 5% of Syrian refugee women having access to employment, the absence of livelihood opportunities for women and female headed households has become a major concern.
As of June 2014, DRC had provided small business training to 410 beneficiaries, with 382 of them receiving in-kind cash grant to support their business plans. An addition of 263 beneficiaries has job placements ongoing in malls, restaurants, hotels, construction companies and oil stations. With this intervention, DRC ensures that 80% of beneficiaries are Syrians and 20% vulnerable Iraqi families for the hosting communities.
In the southern governorates of Diyala, Missan, Basra and Baghdad, DRC completed the last phase of technical vocational training for 510 displacement-affected people. Amongst the beneficiaries, 73% were widows and female heads of household.
A complementary training to enhance small business management skills preceded the development of a business plan for each beneficiary. For a start-up, DRC provided an assortment of toolkits for all of the beneficiaries, matching the skills they acquired.
The kits comprising computers, printers, sewing machines, hair-dressing equipment, welding machines and electrical equipment were valued at approximately USD 318,000.
The Australian Government (AusAID) funded the project and DRC implemented in collaboration with the Iraqi Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA).
Iraq’s Displacement Situation in Figures
Internally Displaced Persons (IDP)
17 million people affected by displacement = 53.7% of the total population 31.7 million
Affected People (53.7%), represent the populations of the Governorates of Anbar, Ninewa, Salah Al-Din, Diyala, Kirkuk, Baghdad and Babil
1.45 million People currently displaced = 4.5% of total population (This does not include the ‘previous case load’ of approximately one million people displaced by the previous conflict in Iraq)
1.5 million People (including host communities) are in need of humanitarian aid = 4.7% of total population
(Source: Revised SRP/OCHA – August 2014)
220,210 Syrian Refugees currently in Iraq
(Source: UNHCR RRP6: 30 June 2014)