A continued lack of food, adequate shelter, health care, employment and concerns over security among the more than 1.6 million people internally displaced by the violence that followed the bombing of the Al-Askari mosque in Samarra in 2006, has meant that three years on, their future remains as uncertain as ever without greater humanitarian intervention, says IOM.
IOM’s annual review of the needs of those displaced by the Samarra bombing on 22 February 2006 finds that although there are by far fewer Iraqis displaced by violence these days, with many governorates having now stopped registration of internally displaced people (IDPs) altogether, their number remains worryingly high.
Representing about 5.5 per cent of the Iraqi population, their plight has changed little in the past three years. IOM assessments of 80 per cent of the 1.6 million post-Samarra IDPs show that priority needs remain adequate shelter, food and access to work.
The majority of these IDPs (59 per cent) live in sub-standard but expensive rented accommodation, and with the passage of time and without work, their financial resources have dwindled significantly. Others have had to resort to living with host families in overcrowded and difficult conditions while 22 per cent of the IDPs are living in collective settlements, public buildings or makeshift shelters. Some of these are under the constant threat of eviction. With only 16 per cent of all post-Samarra IDPs able to access the homes they left behind, a lack of clean water, sanitation and electricity is a daily reality for the IDPs.
The IOM needs assessment also reveals that across the country, 19 per cent of the post-Samarra IDPs still do not have any access to the government’s public food distribution system (PDS) upon which much of the Iraqi population is dependent. And with 44 per cent having only occasional access to the PDS, 81 per cent of all the IDPs cited food as a priority need.
The health too of the IDPs is of growing concern, particularly due to their precarious living conditions, lack of potable water and sanitation or protection from the elements. Although the vast majority of the displaced say they can access health care, the IOM assessment argues that a lack of qualified staff, medicine and equipment and often damage to medical facilities doesn’t ensure the health care is of good enough quality.
Conditions for the nearly 297,000 people, including refugees, who have returned to their former homes, are also harsh with people having to cope with damaged property, infrastructure and loss of livelihood. IOM assessments of returnees show that as a result, food, fuel and non-food items feature highly in their needs in addition to health care, employment and clean water.
Overall, 61 per cent of all post-Samarra IDPs would like to return to their places of origin but in many cases, they do not have the means to do so to move ahead with their lives, even when the security situation permits.
Despite limited funding and insecurity, IOM continues to assist the displaced, returnees and host communities with emergency food, water and household item distributions and community assistance projects. Since 2006, IOM has successfully completed 315 projects in 952 locations with direct costs of over USD 32 million.
However, overall assistance to these vulnerable communities remains inadequate.
"We and others working on the ground are doing all that we can to help, but the needs are still so great and so diverse. We urgently need a much greater level of humanitarian response and funding to meet the challenges. The future of Iraq depends on the resolution of the displacement crisis," says Rafiq Tschannen, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Iraq. "However, the fact that people are returning home, although in smaller than expected numbers, is a positive development which we hope will gather pace."
To access the IOM Emergency Needs Assessment report, please go to: Three Years of Post-Samarra Displacement in Iraq
For further information on IDPs and returnees in Iraq, please contact:
IOM Iraq Program Manager
IDP Monitoring Program
Tel: +962 6 565 9660 extensions 1061 and 1033