The majority of the IDPs come from in and around Mosul and fled their homes when ISIS took over large swathes of the country. Photos by author
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – With the drop in temperatures many internally displaced persons (IDPs) are bracing for winter. But much needed aid, such as kerosene oil essential for heating and cooking, is in short supply compared to previous years.
"The only side providing winterization is the UNHCR," Ahmad Salah, camp manager for Harsham IDP camp located on the northern outskirts of Erbil told Rudaw English, referring to the United Nation’s refugee agency.
The majority of the IDPs come from in and around Mosul and fled their homes when ISIS took over large swathes of the country. They have lived at the camp since it was opened in 2014.
"UNHCR has a program, instead of giving the IDPs winterization materials, they will give them cash," Salah said.
Each family is expected to receive approximately $200 USD at the beginning of January to help in winter preparations.
"Kerosene is the most needed item," he explained, adding that Iraqi's Ministry of Migration and Displacement is still providing food parcels and hygiene kits to each family within the camp every two weeks.
Botan Hasary who manages Harsham and four other camps in the Erbil area, agrees that the lack of heating oil is the biggest challenge they now face.
“The main problems we face is the lack of kerosene," Hasary said. "This is a major problem."
Financial assistance for the IDPs is disappearing, too.
"Many of the organizations are focusing on Mosul now," Hasary said. "The funds are completely reduced. If I compared this year's budget to three years ago, it's completely different."
Though NGOs are putting their resources into Mosul, due to lack of security and services many IDPs aren’t ready to return home.
Although the Iraqi government announced the defeat of a year ago, the group still operates sleeper cells across the country, threatening a new insurgency.
"Most of the IDPs prefer to stay in the camp because of the safety environment that they have and warm hosting by the Kurdistan Region," Hasary said, adding that there is still a lack of security, safety services, livelihoods, and availability of food in and around Mosul.
"Education as well" is an issue, he added, saying that for most of the IDPs there is no guarantee they can return to "the old life they had before in Mosul."
Although the central government announced plans to close IDP schools by September 30 of this year, they are still open, at least for now.
"So far no schools have closed," Hasary said. "They decided the schools will stay open for the next semester but after that we have no update because the decision will be made by the central government of Baghdad, not by Kurdistan."
Hasary urges both the regional government and the central government to "at least try to support them and provide their shelter, security, and to facilitate returnees to their homes."
The Kurdistan Region still hosts 1.2 million internally displaced Iraqis and 250,000 Syrian refugees, but financial means to care for them are stretched to the limit. About a quarter of the costs are covered by international donors and the rest is shouldered by the KRG.