Iraq - Military operations to retake the ISIL-held city of Mosul began in the early hours of Sunday morning. In a worst-case scenario, the humanitarian operation in Mosul may be the single largest and most complex in the world in 2016. IOM stands ready to assist displaced populations across the country through an array of humanitarian responses.
In the lead up to operations, IOM Iraq had prepositioned winter non-food item relief kits, which contain 16 essential items (including hygiene kit, first aid kit, heater, warm blankets, towels, and more) to support families displaced as a result of the offensive and are adaptable to fill the gaps of the needs on the ground. Some 25,000 kits are ready to support up to 150,000 individuals (25,000 households). Additional kits are being prepared, although an estimated USD 14.3 million funding shortfall for non-food items leaves IOM 40,000 kits short of its planned response.
A critical gap that is as-yet unfunded is to provide winterization assistance to families who were displaced in the early stages of the operations to retake ISIL-held areas in Anbar, Kirkuk, Makhmour and Salah al-Din.
The Government of Iraq, in coordination with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, has asked IOM to construct four emergency sites to accommodate the first wave of displaced people. Three of the sites will be constructed in priority areas, with total capacity in the four sites able to accommodate up to 150,000 people.
Despite a projected USD 7 million funding gap for emergency sites, IOM is partnering with other agencies to provide adequate shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) systems to meet minimum living standards in the sites.
In addition to building the emergency sites, IOM continues to provide the most extensive out-of-camp response, supporting internally displaced persons who have found shelter in urban areas. This assistance includes sealing-off kits, which include tarps, building supplies and wooden planks, provided to people living in unfinished buildings to improve their shelter conditions. This is particularly important as winter approaches, as temperatures are already dropping.
A key area of need that IOM is following is return populations. Of concern are the mixed caseloads which include returnees to recently liberated areas, i.e., people returning prematurely to insecure areas, secondarily displaced persons (those who have been displaced multiple times), internally displaced persons and stayers (people who never left their homes).
Because the humanitarian response has been so focused on displaced populations, this is a population at risk of being overlooked, despite ongoing vulnerabilities. It will be critical that funding is flexible to respond to needs on the ground, rather than being directly tied to the status of people being assisted.
According to IOM Iraq’s Displacement Tracking Matrix, within Salah al-Din governorate alone, over 16,000 people have returned to their homes, with 10,000 people returning home since 6 October. The majority of returnees (over 12,700 people) have been identified as returning to the district of al-Shirqat – a recently liberated area that still presents significant challenges in terms of the quality of life for returnees and has been identified to receive displaced people from Mosul city.
“IOM is facing critical funding gaps which constrain the organization from responding to the fullest extent of its capabilities. However, our top priority remains identifying and addressing the needs of vulnerable internally displaced people who will need significant support to get through the oncoming winter,” said IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Thomas Weiss.
IOM is currently the only UN agency with staff in “hard to reach” areas that will be responding directly to the needs of vulnerable populations. Staff access to these areas is possible through long-standing close coordination with local authorities and networks, the Government of Iraq and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It is imperative that access to populations in hard to reach areas remains available throughout the duration of humanitarian operations.