Conflict and instability have ravaged Iraq 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 total of 5.8 million people from their homes across Iraq (three million have been able to return) and left more than 8.7 million in need of humanitarian aid. In addition, over 249 000 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 now enters a new phase of its humanitarian crisis. Key challenges are linked mostly to protection risks, such as those resulting from collective punishment of communities and tribes associated with Islamic State, forced or obstructed returns of displaced populations, protracted displacement in camps and an alarming lack of access to basic services. The economy is disrupted and poverty is widespread.
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 western-most 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 most 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, for the period 2015-2017. Additional funding has been mobilised in 2018.
The EU continues to deliver lifesaving assistance such as protection, food, healthcare, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene to those in need, including people who remain displaced as a consequence of the conflict. This includes seasonal assistance, to help people withstand the harsh temperatures during summer and winter. The EU also supports the resumption of basic public services including healthcare, education, and water supply in areas that have been retaken from Islamic State, such as Mosul, western Anbar, and Hawija.
The EU also funds legal support to people in detention, in accordance with international legal standards as well as financing assistance and basic services. Meanwhile, the EU continues its support for general legal assistance programmes that help families, who were living under Islamic State rule, to obtain essential identification papers. These documents are necessary 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 in need including those who suffer long-lasting impacts of the conflict. Some examples include integrating mental health support into primary healthcare programmes where needed, increasing services for survivors of sexual violence, and providing physical therapy and rehabilitation support for people with disabilities.