Iraq has been ravaged by conflict, crippling sanctions and immense human suffering for decades. The latest war, between Islamic State militants and the Iraqi government, has triggered one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. The unprecedented scale of conflict over the past three years has forced a cumulative total of more than five million people from their homes across Iraq and left more than 11 million in need of humanitarian aid. In addition, over 247 000 people have sought refuge in Iraq, mainly in the Kurdistan region, as a result of the conflict in Syria.
As combat operations in Mosul and other areas formerly held by Islamic State all but ended in 2017, Iraq is now entering a new phase of the humanitarian crisis. Key challenges are linked mostly to protection risks, such as those resulting from forced or obstructed returns of displaced populations, protracted displacement in camps and an alarming lack of access to basic services, for example in areas retaken from Islamic State. The economy is in tatters and people grapple with widespread poverty.
Most children have missed years of school, and homes and infrastructure in west Mosul, Anbar, Kirkuk and Salah al Din are completely destroyed, damaged or contaminated by unexploded ordnance. Reports of people suffering from mental health problems and/or recovering from sexual violence are widespread. A majority of hospitals and clinics in west Mosul have suffered extensive damage and lack equipment, medicines and trained medical staff. Over one million people fled Mosul during the military campaign and more than 600 000 remain displaced in camps or in urban centres.
Anbar, Iraq’s largest and westernmost region, was mostly retaken from Islamic State in 2017, but people who fled the fighting still suffer from a lack of basic services, including drinking water, healthcare, household items, and winter clothing.
The EU is a leading donor to the Iraq humanitarian response, supporting all civilians in need, in line with the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence. In 2017, in response to the growing humanitarian needs following the conflict between the Iraqi government and Islamic State, the European Commission allocated €82.5 million in humanitarian aid to Iraq. This brings the total EU humanitarian contribution to the country close to €350 million since 2015. Additional funding is being mobilised in 2018.
The EU continues to deliver lifesaving assistance such as protection, food, healthcare, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene to people who remain displaced as a consequence of the conflict. This includes seasonal assistance, to help people withstand the harsh temperatures during winter. The EU also supports the resumption of basic public services including healthcare, education, and water supply in areas that have been recently retaken from Islamic State, such as Mosul, western Anbar, and Hawija.
In areas with remaining new displacement, for instance as a result of ongoing occasional fighting in Hawidja, the EU continues to support rapid emergency assistance, either in the form of cash, or by supplying food and basic items.
The EU has also scaled up its efforts for legal support to people in detention as well as for guaranteeing minimum conditions of assistance and basic services, in accordance with international legal standards. Meanwhile, the EU continues its support for general legal assistance programmes that help families, who were living under Islamic State rule, to access essential identification papers. These documents are essential in order to access government social assistance and ensure freedom of movement through security checkpoints.
The EU has also reinforced its partnerships with aid groups specialising in protection and health, to deliver assistance for people who suffer long-lasting impacts of the conflict—for example by integrating mental health support into primary healthcare programmes, increasing services for survivors of sexual violence, and providing physical therapy and rehabilitation support for persons with disabilities.