The Syrian civil war since 2011, the invasion of ISIS in 2014 and Iraqi counter military operations have forced millions of people to flee their homes and seek safety in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Currently, the Kurdistan Region hosts approximately 245,000 Syrian refugees and 1.2 million Iraqi internally displaced people. Despite the declaration of victory over ISIS in 2017, insecurity and hardship continues to compel civilians into seeking safety in camps established in the Kurdistan Region. New displacements have outnumbered the voluntary return of IDP families. During the first eight months of 2018 alone, the KRI has received over 15,000 IDPs from Ninewa and other provinces. These new displacements are adding to the already heavy burden and exhausted capacity of the KRG and partners.
The humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq has established protracted displacement that is likely to continue for years in the absence of any foreseeable resolution to the Syrian civil war or the security and complex challenges that persist in the aftermath of ISIS. The humanitarian situation itself is merely a symptom and a consequence of a complex economic, political, social, legal, and security crisis that has produced far-reaching destruction in the communities that the displacement originates from. This complex crisis is preventing the majority of the refugees and IDPs from returning to their homes in the liberated areas. Today, over 37% of the refugees and 20% of the IDPs live in 39 camps established in the governorates of Erbil, Slemani, Duhok and Garmiyan Administration. They are completely dependent on government support and humanitarian assistance provided by UN agencies and international and local NGOs.
In a joint conference on the 10th of April 2018, the KRG and UN Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) launched the Humanitarian Response Plan, Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan, and Priority Small Scale Service Projects plan for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The partners requested US$ 442 million in order to deliver humanitarian assistance to 850,000 most vulnerable people: IDPs, refugees and host communities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The requested fund is the minimum amount to implement highly prioritized and critical humanitarian projects and activities in the aforementioned plans in 2018.
As of today, only 59% of the HRP and 14% of the 3RP has been funded. Lack of funding has obliged humanitarian partners to either reduce or completely terminate services and ongoing projects. This has been particularly detrimental for food security and health services in the camps. The food and health clusters are unwillingly forced to reduce and suspend critical and life-saving services and assistance in the camps. This threatens the welfare and lives of thousands of highly vulnerable IDPs and refugees residing in the camps and lacking means to survive. The continued and severely underfunded humanitarian crisis creates dire consequences for the displaced populations as well as the host communities who have shouldered the bulk of the humanitarian burden.
The KRG remains committed to its rights-based policy and will continue to do everything possible to alleviate the suffering of the refugees and IDPs and provide security, protection, services and opportunities. We will continue strengthening our vital collaboration and cooperation with humanitarian partners including UN Agencies and local and international NGOs to help the vulnerable people and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. Yet, our capabilities are limited and we alone will not be able to carry on the ongoing services and implement the planned projects.
Alarmed by the threat to the welfare and food security of displaced populations, the Kurdistan Regional Government calls upon the federal government and the international community to prevent a potential humanitarian tragedy by allocating needed resources. Without additional funding, the KRG and our national and international partners will not be able to cope with the pressure and make crucial assistance and services available any longer. Addressing the critical needs of displaced families is a shared responsibility and requires continued cooperation and support from all sides. Inadequate response will have dire consequences for the displaced populations and host communities and inflict a heavy cost of inaction on the government and the international community.
The Kurdistan Region is severely affected by the impact of the costly war with ISIS during the last four years, the large-scale and protracted humanitarian crisis, the drastic drop in oil prices, and the federal government’s decision to withhold Kurdistan’s share of the Iraqi national budget since 2014. This has resulted in the suspension of all investments across the Kurdistan Region, severe degeneration of public services and a regress on many health, education, social and development targets for the region. It will take years to deal with these consequences and to get the economy back on track.
Finally, we continue to work and cooperate with our partners to review, assess and prioritize the needs to ensure the available resources are utilized effectively and efficiently to support these vulnerable people, especially as we are approaching the harsh winter.
Humanitarian Situation in the Kurdistan Region - Statistical Overview: