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Food aid for IDPs outside of camps to be reduced in Kurdistan, Iraq

By Rudaw 3/7/2017
Mosul IDPs at a displacement camp in the Kurdistan Region. Photo: Rudaw
Mosul IDPs at a displacement camp in the Kurdistan Region. Photo: Rudaw

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Facing a funding crisis and changing evaluations by NGOs, food payments to internally displaced Iraqis (IDPs) in the Kurdistan Region will be reassessed based on whether they are living in camps or not.

“When you look at populations in need of food assistance, you also have to look at the evidence base that would provide that assistance,” Michael Huggins, the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) emergency coordinator in Iraq, told Rudaw on Monday. 
The WFP said they are shifting their focus to provide for people living in camps only, as of July. 

“We will not be assisting people outside of the camps. And the reason for that is that many of those who are living outside, they have coping strategies. They have access to jobs, they have access to facilities, families. And those who are living in camps do not have the freedom of movement that would enable them to be able to go and find gainful employment outside the camp. They are stuck in the camp and they are not getting that much assistance,” Huggins said.

The WFP provides a monthly stipend to persons in the camps, supporting more than 65,000 Syrian refugees in camps across the Kurdistan Region, he detailed. 


“We are currently doing another assessment in all of the refugee camps to see if our intervention fully meets the needs in those camps …” said Huggins.

WFP says it will continue to support 300,000 IDPs in camps in the region, and more than 820,000 IDPs across Iraq.

The changes are coming after a reduction in international aid, said Hoshang Mohamed the director of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Joint Crisis Coordinator Center (JCC) that overseas operations caring for IDPs and refugees in the Region. 

According to WFP figures released in April based on research done before the Mosul offensive, 53 percent of Iraqis are vulnerable to food insecurity. That number rose to 66 percent among displaced persons.

The WFP stated in April that it urgently needs $113 million to continue assisting 1.5 million vulnerable Iraqis through to the end of September 2017.

The funding cuts come amid widespread financial shortfalls in agencies caring for an unprecedented number of people displaced by conflict worldwide. The UNHCR is short $1 billion for 2017, threatening its assistance to Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.

“Additional contributions are urgently needed to avoid dramatic and deep cuts to both basic and life-saving services to Syrian refugees in the second half of the year,” said UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic in June. 

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq issued an urgent plea earlier this year for $76.3 million, of which $28.83 million is needed immediately to care for Mosul IDPs.

The JCC has asked for help from the Iraqi government, said Mohamed, noting that the Ministry of Trade was supposed to compensate for any financial cuts to food programs for IDPs or refugees.

He is not optimistic, however. “This ministry cannot even provide food for Iraqi people, how it can provide food for the refugees?” he asked.

Mohamed warned that a serious problem will arise if something is not done, saying about 1 million people will be affected by the funding cuts. 

The Kurdistan Region is hosting over 1.5 million IDPs and refugees. This includes 210,000 Mosul IDPs who have arrived since the offensive began last October. Between 500 and 1,000 new people are arriving on a daily basis, according to JCC figures. 

Some 25 percent of IDPs and 39 percent of refugees in the Region are in camps. The majority are living outside of the camps. 

Mohamed said the changes “will create a huge problem for the Kurdistan Region.”

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