Lise Grande, the Deputy Special Representative of UNAMI and UNDP Resident Representative, on August 14, 2017. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The United Nations’ top humanitarian envoy to Iraq says she has expressed commitment to both the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in filling any humanitarian gaps that may arise as the focus shifts to return and stabilization for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
“The humanitarian crisis continues,” Lise Grande, the UN Development Programme Resident Representative in Iraq, told Rudaw on Monday.
Just under 3.3 million Iraqis remain displaced across the country due in large part to instability and the rise of ensuing war with ISIS.
"We've promised the government in Baghdad, we've promised the KRG that they can count on us, that we will be there, and that we will help with the return process,” she explained.
More than 944,000 people were displaced from Mosul city during the nine-month offensive to retake the city from ISIS militants that concluded in July. Grande called this the “the largest evacuation of civilians in the modern period of history" and a “tremendous achievement.”
However, Iraqis still face everyday problems of electricity, water, sewage, and infrastructure due to the large amount of destruction in the battle for Mosul.
"One of the points that we are stressing now that the fighting in Mosul is over — it's a relief that that's the case, but humanitarian crisis is not. Our expectation is that there will be extremely high levels of humanitarian need all the way through the end of this year and into 2018,” she explained.
To the north, lots of work has to be done in the Yezidi city of Shingal, according to Grande.
“Large parts of the city are completely destroyed,” she said. “It will be a major effort to rebuild Sinjar."
Northern areas of the Shingal region have been rid of ISIS for nearly two years, although many Yezidis still remain in camps in Duhok and elsewhere inside the Kurdistan Region.
"I don't think families can go back until electricity is fully restored, until water is fully restored. It's not safe for them to go back until conditions are ready. That's why reconstruction in Sinjar is something has to be treated as a top priority,” Grande offered, explaining that she recently visited the area.
She believes people do want to return to their homes, but with "dignity, safety, and voluntarily."
In Shingal, several groups claim to be providing security and some humanitarians have previously told Rudaw English that access is often a problem.
"In the case of Sinjar, the United Nations Development Programme is already helping. We helped to open up one of the health facilities and we're helping to re-establish a mobile electricity grid, but this is just the start. There is so much to do," Grande explained.
Since the rise of ISIS, the Kurdistan Region has sheltered 1.8 million IDPs and refugees. Ninety-eight percent of the Syrian refugees in Iraq came to the Kurdish areas.
Grande, who is also Deputy Special Representative of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), believes the hospitality shown by Kurds “inside of the KRG and inside of Kirkuk” is not going unnoticed internationally.
"The role of the KRG, the role of the Kurdish people has been exemplary, it's been impressive and the whole world has watched this and expressed its support for those efforts,” she said.