On Sunday, 20 October 2019, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) together with the United Nations held a high-level coordination meeting to discuss the humanitarian situation, particularly the situation in Syria as the Kurdistan Region has been receiving new influx of refugees due to the military operations in the northern Syria. The meeting was chaired by H.E. Reber Ahmed, Minister of Interior and Ms. Mart Ruedas, Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq.
The meeting discussed new developments in Syria and influx of refugees to the Kurdistan Region, needs and priorities for remaining part of 2019 and for 2020 discussed.
In his opening remarks, Minister Reber Ahmed highlighted the current humanitarian situation in the Kurdistan Region. He reiterated the KRG’s position of voluntary, dignified and safe return of the IDPs. And stated that the KRG will continue its efforts for further strengthening the already existing mechanisms of coordination and cooperation with the partners including UN Agencies. Minister Rebar explained the consequences and impact of the crisis in Syria on the Kurdistan Region such as the influx of refugees and potential security threat of the ISIS members. He reiterated that KRG’s policy is consistent that we will do all that we can to receive and help the refugees and provide them with protection and lifesaving assistance but KRG cannot do it alone, therefore, we call upon all our partners to provide support.
Then, Ms. Marta Ruedas, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, thanked the Kurdistan Region for the long-standing generosity that has shown to the IDPs and refugees and the good level of coordination in regard to working together to help the displaced people.
Ms. Marta also stated that there’s a good level of support from the international community to support IDP camps in coordination with the KRG and they will make all efforts to engage with Baghdad to take some of the burdens on the shoulders of the KRG in regard to the challenges facing the displaced community in the Kurdistan Region. She reiterated the commitment and support of the United Nations to the KRG.
Minister of Health Saman Barznji highlighted the gaps and needs in the health sector for IDPs and refugees. He encouraged the relevant UN agencies to provide support not only for the IDPs and refugees inside camps as a large number of them are living among the host communities across the Kurdistan Region.
Minister Barznji stated that KRG made every effort to provide health services to the IDPs and refugees inside camps in cooperation and collaboration with different partners, including relevant stakeholders in Baghdad and the UN agencies.
He identified a list of needs and gaps including lack of physicians inside the camps and at the health centers where IDPs and refugees outside camps get their treatment, medical equipment, laboratory among other medical supplies and needs.
Minister of Education, Alan Hama Saeed, briefed the meeting about the challenges of the education for the refugee and IDPs students and said that there are around 450 schools and over 200,000 students in Kurdistan. He added that despite the challenges and the financial crisis, KRG has been providing the required support for the schools hosting IDP students. The needs provided from Baghdad have been very limited. Minister Alan hoped that the UNICEF and UNESCO would continue their support for refugee and IDP students. The KRG needs assistance from all sides so that education process would continue for refugee and IDP students.
Head of Department of Foreign Relations, Minister Safeen Dizayee expressed the KRG’s concern over the situation in northern Syria as it has already impacted the Kurdistan Region, adding the military offensive in Syria is an indication more influx of refugees are expected. Minister Dizayee urged the UN agencies to be more involved to meet the needs of the IDPs and refugees inside and outside the camps.
Then governors of Duhok, Slemani and deputy governor of Erbil briefed the meeting about the humanitarian situation in their respected governorates and identified issues and challenges facing the displaced communities as well as the gaps and needs of each governorate.
Then Mr. Hoshang Mohamed, Director General of JCC, gave a presentation on humanitarian contingency plan to respond and manage the new influx of Syrian refugees. He highlighted the current humanitarian situation in the Kurdistan Region and explained the needs to make necessary preparations to help the refugees. In another part of his presentation, Mr. Hoshang briefed the meeting about the current number of IDPs and Syrian refugees, stated that KRG still hosts 1.1 million where 20% of them are residing in 38 camps across the Kurdistan Region. He also talked about the impact of decreased international funding on the humanitarian projects and plans in the sectors of health, education, water and sanitation, waste management and food. Mr. Hoshang also stated that the KRG needs 81 million USD monthly and 971 million USD annually to provide the basic services to the IDPs and refugees in Kurdistan. At the end of the presentation, he briefly mentioned the prepared scenarios to receive the refugee influx from Northeast Syria and the needs for establishing new camps as well as providing services and basic emergency needs.
Representatives of other UN agencies highlighted the issues and challenges facing the displaced community in the Kurdistan Region and expressed their continued commitment to address some of the issues facing the IDPS and refugees and to continue working with the KRG and Iraqi federal government.
In the meeting, several actions agreed upon and recommendations made to strengthen the cooperation and coordination to better utilize the available resources and mobilize the required funds for the humanitarian plans to better help and support the new influx of the refugees and also maintaining the services for the current IDPs and refugees in Kurdistan Region of Iraq.