With the constant security escalation across Iraq and the continued military operations to retake the areas under ISIS, people continue to be displaced and the people are taking very dangerous journeys to reach safety. There are confirmed reports that many people have lost their lives during the voyages either killed or injured by ISIS or by IEDs and mines. Some others especially, the children and elderly have died of thirsty in the deserts. The recent waves of displacement indicates that people simply are fleeing for two reasons; fleeing ISIS violence and brutality and others for economic and life-saving assistance, especially food and water.
Currently, KRG faces the three very alarming challenges as a consequences of the humanitarian Crisis which has crippled KRG’s ability to continue extending its helping hand to the most needed people. The first challenge: how to continue providing civic services to the IDPs, refugees and host communities. Currently, Kurdistan Region is the host of 1.6 million IDPs and refugees, despite the fact that KRG faces the worst ever financial and economic crises due to multiple factors which pushed KRG’s capacity to the limits to maintain or even keep the provision of the very basic public services not only for IDPs and refugees but also for its own population. The factors include the withheld of the Kurdistan Region’s 17% budget share by federal government since January 2014, the costly war with ISIS, the heavy financial burden of the IDPs and refugees estimated at 1.4 billion US dollars annually, and the drop of oil price which constitutes 90% of the KRG’s income. KRG is challenging to pay the salaries of the public employees and even the Peshmerga and security forces and providing necessary funds to the public sectors to keep the very basic services running.
So far, KRG has covered all of the operation and service provision costs since 2014. It has received no direct financial assistance to support the KRG’s budget needs neither from Baghdad nor from International community, apart from very moderate humanitarian assistance channeled through UN-Agencies and International NGOs, even these funds were only sufficient to provide the basic needs of the IDPs and refugees mostly in the camps and lifesaving assistance to the new arrivals.
The second challenge; the continued displacement towards KRI. Since the start of operations in March 2016 in the southeast and east Mosul, Salahaddin and Anbar provinces, over 34,000 people have arrived in Makhmour and Debaga. KRG’s efforts has continued to provide them the lifesaving assistance in close cooperation with partners on the ground but everything remained in short supply including shelter, water and sanitation, food, health etc. As efforts military tightened to retake Mosul, we expect one million people will be displaced and half a million will be heading towards KRI. According the JCC lead Humanitarian Contingency Plan, $275 million USD is immediately needed to provide only lifesaving assistance to the new waves of IDPs. So far, there has not been any concrete steps to prepare for the humanitarian consequences which will result in the battle for Mosul due to the lack of funds. If immediate funds are not made available, we all will only plan for nothing just to witness a humanitarian catastrophe; thousands of people will be left alone. People already started leaving their homes and if safe corridors established, hundreds of thousands will be taking the adventure to reach safety.
The third challenge; the return process, thousands of people are fleeing in the liberated areas due to the lack of very basic civic services, this will further exacerbate the humanitarian crisis, if immediate mechanism is not established to support people in their homes in the liberated areas. And also to encourage and help those displaced to return to their homes which are safe and secure. Millions of people will leave their homes only because of the lack of services. Such waves of displacement will require billions of dollars to respond and it will be beyond the capacity of all partners. Eventually, it will be impossible to continue providing assistance, especially shelter in the long term.
Without immediate financial assistance to support the KRG’s efforts, it will be almost impossible to continue providing the public services for the entire population inclusive of IDPs and refugees and support the humanitarian communities’ operations in Kurdistan Region. And also to be prepared to respond to the new waves of displacement and predictable emergencies due to the constant escalation of the security situation across Iraq and the continuous military operations to liberate the areas under ISIS control and the imminent Mosul liberation Operation.
Although KRG’s humanitarian efforts has been widely recognized by International community but more needs to be done. The humanitarian crisis is a shared responsibility and Baghdad Government and the International community should share the burden with KRG and provide direct financial assistance to cover the KRG’s humanitarian budget requirements to enable the public services running for the entire population and increase the region’s resilience to cope with the current humanitarian and financial crises and predictable future humanitarian emergencies.
While we are working hard with all partners to ensure that there is a coherent and well-coordinated plan for an effective and efficient humanitarian response to the new waves of displacement and to the current IDPs an refugees in KRI, but without an immediate action being implemented in terms of funding for contingency plan and humanitarian plans, the KRG cannot be continuous in hosting or aiding future IDPs and/or refugees, there is simply no capacity to do so.