Tuesday, 23 August 2016 03:00

Iraq’s displacement crisis - UNHCR preparing for worse to come

Baghdad, Iraq: 

With the number of Iraqis displaced due to conflict continuing to rise, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, is warning that even worse is yet to come. Since March, more than 200,000 Iraqis have fled from their homes due to ongoing military operations. The anticipated offensive for Iraq’s second-biggest city, Mosul, could result, if prolonged, in the displacement of more than a million additional Iraqis.


“Worse is yet to come”, warned UNHCR’s Representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo. “We predict that it could result in massive displacement on a scale not seen globally in many years.”

“We are building new camps and pre-positioning emergency relief kits to ensure people fleeing get rapid assistance. But even with the best-laid plans, there will be insufficient camps for all families needing shelter and we need to prepare other options”, he said.

Altogether in Iraq, 3.38 million people have been displaced since January 2014, with many uprooted several times. An additional one million Iraqis were displaced as a result of earlier sectarian conflicts in the mid 2000s.

Since March, some 48,000 individuals have fled their homes in Mosul and surrounding areas; with 87,000 fleeing from Falluja and nearby areas since May, and 78,000 from Shirqat, Qayyara and surrounding areas since June.

Wars and conflict in Iraq over the past three decades have left the country deeply traumatized.

UNHCR has been providing humanitarian support, including shelter, emergency relief kits and protection services to displaced families. It has developed contingency plans that could provide shelter assistance for up to 120,000 people fleeing conflict in Mosul and surrounding areas.

Two new IDP camps in Debaga, Erbil Governorate, were completed in July and August. UNHCR is looking to build an additional site, awaiting available land, as Debaga has swollen nearly ten-fold in size since March - from one camp housing 3,500 displaced Iraqis to now several sites, housing more than 34,000.

North of Mosul, one camp is being built at at Zelekan in Sheikhan district, and Amalla, in Telafar district, which will house more than 4,000 families.

In Kirkuk, UNHCR is constructing a new camp in Daquq district, with capacity for 1,000 tents, and expanding additional camp capacity at Nazrawa and Laylan.

Work is also underway in Salah al-Din for a 1,000 tent camp site at Tal al- Seebat.

UNHCR, with other UN agencies and NGO partners, is assessing and identifying other sites in northern Iraq in close consultation with authorities. However, progress depends on both availability of land and of funding. UNHCR’s overall appeal of $584 m for IDPS and Iraqi refugees in the region is only 38% funded as of 2 August.

Finding available land for the new camps has become a critical issue. Many private landowners are unwilling to lease land; other land may be unsuitable due to the topography, its proximity to the frontline or military operations and the risk of contamination of UXOs or landmines, or because sites are located in areas which could inflame ethnic, sectarian, religious or tribal tensions.

The majority of people displaced from Mosul may require out of camp solutions. UNHCR and shelter partners are already procuring emergency shelter kits and relief items, with a target of distributing at least 50,000 of each kit when needs arise.

The emergency shelter kits are designed to help displaced families to prepare rudimentary shelter. They can also be adapted to be used in unfinished buildings or collective centres.

In addition, UNHCR and protection partners will strongly advocate for private and institutional sponsorship arrangements to try to find alternative accommodation solutions. This could be via family and friends, or charitable foundations, endowments and religious or other institutions.

For more information, please contact:

In Baghdad: Caroline Gluck, Senior Public Information Officer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; Tel: +964 780 920 7286 

In Erbil: Michael Prendergast, Reporting Officer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; Tel + 964 771 842 2190 

In Erbil: Yousif Mahmood, Executive Assistant: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; Tel +964 750 465 3678

In Dohuk: Catherine Robinson, Public Information officer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; Tel +964 771 994 1850

Additional Info

  • Agency: UNHCR

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