By John Lee.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is preventing about 1,200 Arab families from returning home to 5 villages more than 6 years after the area was retaken from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Sunday.

KRG authorities have allowed Kurdish residents in neighboring villages, in the Rabia subdistrict, west of Dohuk, to return.

More here.

(Source: HRW)

New report from FAO, IFAD, WFP and the World Bank reveals complex impact of COVID-19 on food security in Iraq

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Bank have collected and analyzed new data on the impact of the crisis on food security, and made corresponding joint recommendations in the first report of a new regular series, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security in Iraq.”

Many people have been unable to work during the current crisis. Around 4.8 million people (12% of the total population) are using negative coping strategies to meet their food needs, and a large stimulus package will be required to re-start the economy, beyond the current measures to mitigate the impact on households and businesses.

On the other hand, food availability has been stable overall, with above-average cereal production in the 2019/2020 season, and the government of Iraq taking a proactive role to keep the food system open despite lockdowns. Food imports have continued, with global trade largely uninterrupted.

Humanitarian, social protection and development responses have stepped up, both from the government (such as “Minha” – “Grant”) and supporting partners. However, global trends have had a cascading impact on Iraq. The fall in oil prices and the slow recovery of the global oil market have had negative implications for the domestic budget, and may affect the government’s ability to continue to fund social protection programmes and agriculture subsidies.

With assistance from Food Security Cluster partners and the Cash Consortium of Iraq, FAO, IFAD, WFP and the World Bank analyzed food availability and access, with a particular focus on vulnerable populations, and jointly made policy recommendations.

“With initiatives to work towards a regional trade integration framework, create an enabling environment for increasing domestic production, invest in productive infrastructure, enhance social protection and monitor food security, vulnerable households can continue to have access to nutritious food. All possible efforts will be made to support the government of Iraq and implement the proposed recommendations,” said FAO Representative in Iraq Dr Salah El Hajj Hassan, IFAD Representative for Iraq Tarek Ahmed, WFP Iraq Representative Abdirahman Meygag, and World Bank Iraq Representative Ramzi Neman, in a joint statement.

The new publication builds on the partners’ weekly reports on COVID-19 and food security, which launched in April and continue to be released.

Download a copy of the new report at:

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

The AMAR International Charitable Foundation is delighted to invite you to attend an on line Zoom panel of Iraqi medical experts from the World Health Organisation, IBBC healthcare and our front-line doctor, live from the IDP camps, to discuss the current healthcare situation in Iraq and the immediate challenges in Iraq and AMAR’s IDP camp services.

The event will take place on 3rd July at 03:00 PM (BST)

Click here to register.

(Source: AMAR)

The Government of Australia has provided AUD 866,000 (USD 591,000) to support the work of UNFPA in Iraq. The funding will provide assistance to 38,000 women and girls, in Duhok and Nineveh Governorates over the next year.

The new contribution will primarily support Syrian refugees who arrived in Iraq in 2019 as a result of the military operations in north-eastern Syria. Women and girls, survivors of gender-based violence; and men, as allies of the prevention and response to gender-based issues, will benefit from prevention and response services, such as psychosocial support and case management.

The funding will also allow UNFPA to procure and pre-position 8,000 dignity kits for women and girls of reproductive age, in particular, refugee and internally displaced populations.

“Australia is pleased to continue to work with UNFPA to ensure the reproductive health needs of women and girls affected by conflict are being met, and work towards a world where women and girls can live free from violence”, said Dr Joanne Loundes (pictured), the Ambassador of Australia to Iraq.

Acknowledging the contribution, Dr Oluremi Sogunro, UNFPA Representative to Iraq, said: “Australia has been a consistent and reliable partner for UNFPA’s work in Iraq. Australia has given UNFPA women and girls in Iraq, through UNFPA, to a total of AUD 16.8 million since October 2014. We couldn’t be more grateful for this trust in our work. With this new commitment, Iraq is a step closer to ensuring no woman or girl is left behind in Iraq”.

(Source: UN)

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomes a donation of US$522,500 from the Government of Switzerland to support the food needs of nearly 24,000 refugees and internally displaced people for one month.

The funds, coming through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, will be used to provide cash assistance to 13,400 Iraqis displaced by the conflict and 10,400 Syrian refugees.

“During the ongoing pandemic, refugees and displaced persons remain among the most vulnerable in Iraq,” said the Ambassador of Switzerland to Iraq Lukas Gasser.

“Switzerland continues its long-term partnership with WFP, working together to support displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugee families, to get through this difficult time of heightened need – especially as many affected people remain unable to work.”

Due to increased needs caused by COVID-19, WFP has scaled up its assistance in Iraq reaching a total of 76,000 refugees and 280,000 IDPs.

“WFP expresses its continued gratitude for the steadfast support of the people and Government of Switzerland particularly during this difficult time,” said WFP Representative in Iraq Abdirahman Meygag.

“Many IDPs and refugee families had begun to achieve some self-sufficiency in securing their food needs before the pandemic. Now many have lost their jobs, among the worst affected are day labourers and seasonal workers.”

In ongoing efforts to mitigate COVID-19, WFP is pioneering cashless payments in camps, so that people can purchase food in a “contactless” manner. This both reduces the need for banknotes, and helps avoid the need for people to leave the camp and move around more than necessary.

Meanwhile, WFP and its partners continue awareness sessions on precautionary measures, and will begin emergency livelihoods projects as soon as it is safe, to help affected people to work again and secure their food needs.

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

A recent contribution of USD2.8 million by the European Union has provided immediate relief to 90,000 vulnerable people -half of them children – in emergency camps in Salamiya, Hamam al Alil and Jeda’a 1 and 5 IDP camps within Ninawa governorate.

Only 39 per cent of Iraq’s population have access to safely managed drinking water. The situation is particularly dire for thousands of vulnerable families living in camps and who depend on humanitarian support for their survival.

“The generous contribution from the EU enabled UNICEF to continue trucking in safe water for drinking and cooking. This helped to protect the health of children and their families from dangerous diseases, including Acute Watery Diarrhea and Cholera, both which can result from the consumption of unsafe water,” said Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF Representative in Iraq.

Funds were also used to support appropriate sanitation facilities and maintaining a clean and hygienic environment through care maintenance and waste management, water quality monitoring and distribution.

Iraqi and non-Iraqi children continue to be vulnerable to violence, abuse and exploitation and in need of protection prevention and response services in both camp and non-camp settings. In addition, many of the children in former conflict areas do not have birth certificate and other civil document, which is a legacy of conflict and upheaval in Iraq. This has restricted their ability to move out of camps and to access to social services like health, education and social protection.

Thanks to the EU’s longstanding support, UNICEF has also been able to:

  • repatriate 200 foreign children back to their countries of origin;
  • provide psychosocial services to 4,235 children (2125 girls);
  • legal assistance to 596 children (188 girls) in contact with the law;
  • A further 1,107 children (373 girls) received birth registration and civil documentation.

(Source: UN)

Belgium and Italy support WFP’s assistance to displaced families and refugees in Iraq

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomes two generous contributions from the Governments of Belgium and Italy of €1 million each (US$1.1 million) to assist internally displaced people (IDPs) and Syrian refugees in Iraq.

“The vulnerable situation of IDPs and refugees in Iraq is now further exacerbated by COVID-19. Italy remains committed to supporting WFP in its work to reach affected communities, helping people meet their food needs. Particularly in the current context, where many people have lost day jobs or cannot work, food assistance remains vital,” said the Italian Ambassador to Iraq Bruno Pasquino.

Both contributions – committed pre-COVID-19 crisis – will enable WFP to distribute monthly cash-based transfers through electronic vouchers (“e-vouchers”) and “mobile money,” to 81,300 of the most vulnerable IDPs and Syrian refugees – who had to flee their homes and still live in camps. Cash assistance gives people the freedom to buy the food of their choice and at the same time sustains demand in local shops boosting the local economy, which is being badly affected by COVID-19.

Restrictions imposed to face COVID-19 in the country have pushed food prices higher while at the same time people’s incomes diminished as they are unable to work. WFP is seeking US$31.9 million to help meet the increased needs of families affected by COVID-19.

“By addressing the food needs and assisting communities in strengthening their coping mechanisms, WFP plays a significant role in a number of countries and as such, is a key partner of Belgian humanitarian aid,” said Ambassador of Belgium to Jordan and Iraq Filip Vanden Bulcke. “We are keen to support a comprehensive Food Security system in Iraq through our multiyear and flexible funding to WFP, to respond to people in need of humanitarian food assistance.”

“As people’s needs grow in the current context, WFP extends its gratitude to the Governments of Belgium and Italy for such strong and enduring partnerships,” said WFP Representative in Iraq Abdirahman Meygag. “These funds are helping us ensure that the most vulnerable IDPs and Syrian refugees have enough to eat and prevent them from spiraling into hunger and poverty during this very difficult time.”

Despite the retaking of areas that had been occupied by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), 1.4 million people continue to be displaced, hampered from returning to their homes due to severe damage, a lack of basic services and security issues. Due to violence in neighboring Syria, Iraq continues to host around 247,500 Syrian refugees.

(Source: UN)

Debris-recycling initiative seeks to bolster return of displaced in Iraq, amidst growing risks of COVID-19 outbreak

With support from the Government of Japan, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is joining forces with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to launch an innovative debris-recycling project that will help displaced persons in Kirkuk Governorate, northern Iraq, return to their homes.

“With almost 10,000 destroyed houses in Kirkuk Governorate, our priority is to enable [displaced persons] to return and rebuild their demolished homes,” said Ali Humadi, Kirkuk’s Assistant Governor for Technical Affairs.

The plight of the approximately 1.4 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Iraq has taken on a new urgency, as they are widely recognized to be some of the most vulnerable communities to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The impact of the epidemic is exacerbated by the conditions in which the displaced live,” said Dr. Jassim Hamadi, Deputy Health and Environment Minister. “Their cramped living circumstances, both in formal camps and densely populated informal settlements, and difficulty in accessing basic services – especially healthcare – makes them extremely vulnerable to the spread of the virus.”

Emphasizing that “the presence of huge volumes of debris on peoples’ properties is the main obstacle preventing the return of at least 80 per cent of cases”, Ali Humadi welcomed sustainable solutions to the debris problem and the redoubling of efforts to facilitate returns given the ongoing public health emergency.

Kirkuk authorities estimate that from 2014 to 2017, around 8-9 million tonnes of debris were created during the conflict with so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Around two-thirds of this debris consists of concrete, blocks and stones that can be recycled, while the rest is mudbricks. A major challenge in handling this debris stems from the potential presence of unexploded ordnance.

Meanwhile, life is slowly picking-up in some of Kirkuk’s 135 destroyed villages. “It’s a citizen-led effort,” said Ibrahim Khalaf, a prominent community member from Buwaiter, a village that was razed to the ground in June 2015.

Buwaiter is one of many villages along the front lines separating militants from the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in southern Kirkuk from Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the north. This large belt of land, that stretches over 65 kilometres and divides Kirkuk Governorate in half, was until recently a no man’s land emptied of its inhabitants as entire villages were levelled flat.

“People are trying to do what they can to rebuild their homes with their meager resources,” Khalaf said. He further asserted that “that just removing the debris from one house can cost around 2.5 million Iraqi dinars (USD 2,000).” This amount is well beyond the means of many families affected by the conflict, and around half of Buwaiter’s nearly 1,000 inhabitants are unable to return as a result.

IOM Iraq estimates that there are still around 60,000 IDPs in Kirkuk.

“The most important thing now is to clear all this debris, and if possible, help people reconstruct their homes,” Khalaf noted.

“We are at a loss for what to do with all this debris,” said Hassan Nassif, the head of Multaqa sub-district whose 35 villages, including Buwaiter, were wiped out during the conflict. He went on to decry “the chaotic dumping of debris in seasonal wadis and despoiling of agricultural land, which will surely create problems for the future”.

By practically demonstrating the potential for debris recycling through this pilot project, UNEP aims to apply a circular vision to the debris problem, transforming it into part of the solution in partnership with IOM. This includes not only facilitating safe returns, but also generating livelihood opportunities through Cash for Work activities, carrying out more cost-effective reconstruction by reusing crushed rubble, and better environmental management.

The project is being implemented in close collaboration with the Kirkuk authorities and the Ministry of Health and Environment, and benefits from valuable facilitation support from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

“Crushing the rubble is a pragmatic and straightforward answer, offering a ray of hope in dealing with our massive challenges, including creating jobs for displaced youth,” Nassif added. “We stand ready to support this initiative and look forward to expanding this recycling approach in Multaqa and Kirkuk.”

H.E. Hashimoto Naofumi, Ambassador of Japan to Iraq, said: , “Japan has recently decided to provide a new assistance package for Iraq amounting to USD 41 million including this project as assistance for debris recycling in Kirkuk Governorate.
With this package, the total amount of Japan’s assistance to the people affected by the crisis reaches USD 540 million since 2014″.

He went on to say, “Japan is pleased to invest in addressing this overlooked debris problem and support a sustainable return process that integrates the humanitarian, reconstruction and environmental angles of the question.”

As part of this one-year project, which starts this month, UNEP also plans to work closely with Kirkuk Governorate’s recently created Debris Working Group and the Environment Ministry to strengthen their capacity to develop and apply optimal debris management plans.

(Source: UN)

UNHCR welcomes funding from Japan to assist vulnerable displaced persons in Iraq

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes the generous contribution of USD 5 million from the Government and people of Japan to protect and assist internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees, and refugees across Iraq.
This brings Japan’s total contribution to Iraq during the past six years to USD 100 million.

With Japan’s support, UNHCR will ensure the provision of legal assistance to up to 6,000 internally displaced individuals and 2,800 Syrian refugees, along with improved protection monitoring and enhanced access to civil documentation, as well as with psychosocial counselling and strengthened prevention and response activities for sexual and gender-based violence.

H.E. Mr. Hashimoto, Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Iraq, expressed Japan’s commitment to providing assistance to vulnerable displaced individuals in Iraq and emphasized:

Japan has recently decided new assistance package for Iraq amounting to USD 41 million including this project as assistance for IDPs, returnees and Syrian refugees.

“With this package, the total amount of Japan’s assistance to the people affected by the crisis reaches USD 540 million since 2014. I hope that the assistance from the Government and people of Japan will help provide necessary services to the vulnerable people in need.

Philippa Candler, UNHCR Acting Representative in Iraq:

The Government of Japan has been one of UNHCR’s most important contributors in recent years. The longstanding and ongoing cooperation between Japan and UNHCR has enabled the operation to continue providing protection and humanitarian assistance to thousands of vulnerable displaced families in Iraq.

“This assistance shows the strong and unwavering commitment of Japan to address the needs of displaced populations in Iraq as the country works towards stabilisation and recovery. With ongoing support, we will continue to assist and protect those affected by displacement.”

While the situation in Iraq has notably improved during the past years and the country is steadily transitioning and advancing into a new post-conflict phase, thousands of vulnerable displaced families remain in dire need of humanitarian assistance. With over 1.4 million displaced Iraqis, 4.6 million returnees, and 288,000 refugees, needs are huge and ongoing assistance is essential to continue ensuring a stable and peaceful recovery.

(Source: UN)

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes a new donation of USD 5.6 million from the Kingdom of the Netherlands for 2019 and 2020 to assist internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees, and Syrian refugees in Iraq.

This contribution is part of the global PROSPECTS Partnership aiming at joining partners’ efforts to develop a new paradigm in responding to forced displacement crises through the involvement of development actors. While Iraq recovers from conflict, the needs of its population diversify. Some 4.4 million people have returned to their homes and are restarting their lives; however, the conditions for sustainable return are not yet met across all the country.

Continued assistance for the 1.4 million displaced Iraqis and over 286,000 refugees, and the host communities, is essential to ensure a stable and peaceful recovery. The generous contribution from the Kingdom of the Netherlands will ensure the provision of legal assistance and civil documentation to internally displaced persons across Iraq, along with the provision of specialized individual and group-based psychosocial support for children.

In addition, the donation will contribute to improve the access to formal primary and secondary education for Syrian refugee children in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. H.E. Mr. Eric Strating (pictured), Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Iraq, emphasized the importance of the urgent recovery and strengthened resilience of those who have been affected and displaced by conflict. “If we truly want to assist Iraq in achieving durable stability, we cannot leave anyone behind. Assistance in the field of civil documentation, access to education, but also psychosocial support, is part of the most basic needs for people who are trying to rebuild their lives.”

Within this context, the Netherlands initiated the PROSPECTS Partnership in Iraq, aimed at strengthened cooperation of humanitarian and development partners, in order to achieve durable solutions for the 1.4 million displaced Iraqi’s and the 286,000 refugees on Iraqi soil.The recent Multi-Cluster Needs Assessment conducted from June to August 2019, shows that nearly 2.9 million individuals, including camp-based and out-of-camp IDPs as well as returnees, are missing at least one form of civil documentation.

With the generous donation from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, UNHCR will continue assisting IDPs to access legal assistance and civil documentation in collaboration with the Government of Iraq, helping them establish their legal identity, access public services, return to their homes, and exercise their basic rights.

Moreover, this contribution will support the provision of case management and psychosocial support for children survivors of violence, exploitation and abuse, and will complement education assistance aimed at ensuring access to formal education opportunities and obtaining official learning accreditation for Syrian refugee children.

“While the situation in Iraq has notably improved during the past years and the country is steadily transitioning and advancing into a new post-conflict phase, we need to continue supporting its people in their recovery and national reconciliation efforts. Particularly the more than 1.4 million Iraqis and over 286,000 refugees still affected by displacement and wishing to rebuild their lives. This generous contribution enables us to be responsive and compassionate with those that continue relying heavily on humanitarian assistance. With ongoing support, we will stand with all those affected by displacement in Iraq until complete recovery is achieved.” said Ayman Gharaibeh, UNHCR Representative in Iraq.

(Source: UN)