Iraq still faces the consequences of the 2014-2017 war against the Islamic State. Violence and mass destruction displaced millions of people who continue to need protection and access to services. The humanitarian crisis has been deepened by an economic downturn, civil unrest and the coronavirus outbreak. The Iraqi government has started closing camps for displaced people, prompting concerns that thousands will be left homeless and vulnerable during winter and a pandemic. The EU continues to provide humanitarian aid for people in need, both in and out of camps.
The situation in Iraq remains very fragile. The past year has seen mass protests in most of the cities. The coronavirus pandemic has placed an additional burden on the health system that is yet to recover from decades of war and neglect. It has also worsened living conditions for the most vulnerable. Millions of Iraqis and Syrian refugees need continued humanitarian assistance, as reconstruction and development are still underway. In May, the UN estimated that poverty could double by the end of 2020. Surveys found displaced people particularly vulnerable to eviction and unable to meet their basic needs as they report a loss of income.
Since 2014, two-thirds of displaced Iraqis have returned to their areas of origin where infrastructures and services are still being rehabilitated. Those who cannot or do not want to return are facing great pressure and uncertainty after the government announced the closure of all camps. The humanitarian community has warned that involuntary returns will lead to unnecessary suffering, tensions in areas of return and homelessness.
Displaced families in and out of camps need better access to basic services such as water, healthcare and education but also legal assistance. Other needs include protection, psycho-social care and physical rehabilitation. The coronavirus outbreak has emphasised the need for improved frontline response capacity.
The European Union is a leading donor in Iraq. Through its partners, the EU continues to deliver lifesaving assistance such as healthcare, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as protection.
In 2019, EU humanitarian aid was channelled to over 400,000 people, most of them women and children. The EU supports the resumption of basic public services, including healthcare and education in conflict-affected areas, such as western Ninewa, western Anbar, and Hawija. In 2020, the EU directs its efforts to help the most vulnerable, including people in camps, informal settlements and places of detention. EU humanitarian aid dedicates special attention to people affected by the camp closures, especially those that are unable or unwilling to return to their areas of origin.
The EU funds activities that protect people at risk of mistreatment and abuse. It supports legal and psychosocial assistance for minors in detention centres and community-based approaches for the reintegration of former child soldiers. It also provides protection and healthcare for people suffering from the long-lasting effects of the conflict. This results in specialised care and services for survivors of sexual violence, improved access to potable water in overcrowded prisons, physical therapy, rehabilitation and prosthetics for victims of violence.
The EU is equally committed to helping families who lost essential identification papers during the conflict through legal assistance. In 2019, EU support helped almost 40,000 people receive documentation. The documents are essential as they allow people to move safely, obtain assistance and care, attend school and vote in elections. The international community is strongly encouraging authorities to adopt a more systematic approach to providing documents, including birth registration, for all Iraqis.
Iraq is severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak occurred as the humanitarian community was transferring health services back to the authorities. In 2020, the EU has directed €27.5 million out of €35 million in aid to humanitarian programmes responding fully or partially to the pandemic, reaching more than 400,000 people. Activities include support to referral hospitals and health facilities, provision of personal protective equipment and other critical medical supplies and awareness raising on how to reduce the risk of infection. The EU has scaled up assistance to the camps for internally displaced people, including for food assistance and the preparation of quarantine and isolation areas.
Since 2014, the EU has provided over €478 million in humanitarian aid to displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees inside Iraq.