Sectarian violence and the advance of the Islamic State (IS) have resulted in large-scale population displacement and extensive humanitarian need in Iraq. It is estimated that 1.8 million people have been displaced across the country since January 2014.
Tearfund carried out a scoping visit to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) in mid-August to determine needs and priorities for an emergency response. The scoping team identified Dohuk Governorate in KRI as an area of high need, since it hosts the largest proportion of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix figures indicate that there are over 543,000 IDPs across the Governorate. Within Dohuk, UNICEF identified the Batel sub-district of Sumel District as being underserved and requiring further assessment. Tearfund conducted a market assessment to explore the possibility of a cash-based response in Batel, which was deemed both viable and appropriate, although INGOs have not yet received approval from the local government to carry out cash distributions. A rapid needs assessment (RNA) was then carried out in Batel from September 7th-10th, to determine the priority needs in the area and make recommendations for programmatic response.
The key findings are that the current primary concern for IDPs is the coming winter. Most communities interviewed had lost everything while fleeing and have insecure, inadequate accommodation, thus protection from the harsh winter conditions in this region is their priority. The IDPs interviewed in Batel were from either Christian or Yazidi minority groups. Most of the Christian IDP communities are being ‘hosted’ by other Christians in locations such as host homes, empty homes or religious buildings, whereas Yazidi IDP communities are living in more open, less hosted/supported locations, such as in fields, schools and abandoned buildings. The local government plans to move IDPs into newly constructed camps as they are completed, with IDPs living in public buildings (particularly those in schools), and in the open, to be relocated as first priority.
Despite the differing living conditions for Yazidi and Christian IDP communities, both communities have significant needs. Both communities need assistance in preparation for winter, including heaters (oil heaters which can also be used for cooking), winter clothes and kerosene/oil. Access to cash is also a repeated concern, as livelihoods have been severely disrupted by the crisis. Water is available but limited at times, and although everyone interviewed could access a latrine, they are often in poor condition and shared between multiple households. Hygiene and sanitation practices are weak, which is especially concerning given the high risk of cholera in Dohuk Governorate. In terms of access to food, all the families spoken to are eating three meals a day; however, the quality and quantity of what they are eating at each meal is much poorer than before the crisis, and meals are low in nutritional value. All communities interviewed had received some level of assistance from local government, NGOs and/or the local community, including the provision of some food, soap, mattresses and blankets. However, the level of support is inconsistent, and insufficient for the level of need.
In light of these key findings and the results of the markets assessment, it is recommended that initial interventions in Batel sub-district should be aimed at assisting displaced communities to meet emergency needs and prepare for the winter through a cash distribution programme, or through direct distribution of NFIs if cash modality restrictions remain. Assistance given to the Yazidi and Christian communities will need to be tailored to their differing living situations. Since the Yazidi communities living in schools, in the open, or in unfinished buildings/ informal settlements are likely to move again from their current locations, they should be primarily targeted for portable non-food items (NFIs) or cash. Essential NFIs recommended for Yazidi communities are those which will help them prepare for the winter, such as heaters, kerosene, winter clothes and winter blankets. The Christian communities assessed were living in churches, host homes and empty homes and so are not highest priority for relocation to camps, therefore they are likely to be less transient. In the immediate term, Tearfund should concentrate on supporting these communities to prepare for the winter in current locations, which could include an ongoing cash response and the provision of NFIs (heaters, kerosene, winter clothes and blankets) as well as support for basic infrastructure for winterisation.
The situation is highly fluid, so all interventions will need to remain flexible. There remains the possibility of secondary or further displacement, and as camps are set up and IDPs are relocated, the needs of the displaced communities may also change, thus ongoing assessments will be required.
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