Displaced Iraqis await the arrival of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a camp in the Kurdistan Region in 2017. File photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The number of displaced Iraqis has dropped below 2 million for the first time in four years with some 4 million people returning to their homes.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) released its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) on Tuesday, concluding that 1,931,868 people still remain displaced, the lowest recorded figure since November of 2014.
"IOM DTM data has documented the phases of the crisis and it has been critical for planning humanitarian assistance," said UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Marta Ruedas.
With ISIS rising to power in 2014, coupled with the US-led coalition's offensive to remove the terror group, some 6 million Iraqis were forced to flee their homes.
Iraq's displaced have steadily continued to return home as parts of the country were liberated along with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi declaring that ISIS had been defeated in December 2017.
"The greatest number of returnees – some 1.49 million – have made their way back to Ninewa, with 1.27 million returning to Anbar province; and nearly 553,000 to Salah al-Din Governorate. Some 77,000 have returned to homes in Baghdad," the report read.
While 97 percent of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) returned to their own houses, two percent have gone to houses other than their own and one percent, some 19,000 people, have left camps and sought shelter in schools, abandoned buildings or religious institutions.
"The remaining IDPs are concentrated in: Ninewa (602,000), Dahuk (349,000), Erbil (217,000), Salah al-Din (169,000), Sulaymaniyah (151,000) and Kirkuk (124,000)," read the report by IOM.
There are 574,000 who still remain in camps with 176,000 in critical shelters, while 1.2 million IDPs live in private homes.
"Data on returns is also essential for this next phase of our support for recovery and reintegration." Ruedas explained.
Although many IDPs are returning home due to improved security, available housing and support from family, friends and community leaders, they still face obstacles, said IOM's Chief of Mission in Iraq, Gerard Waite.
"Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi families continue to be displaced and face significant obstacles to return," he said citing destruction of infrastructure, security concerns and lack of job opportunities or financial means.
Many IDPs have told Rudaw English and large NGOs that they do not feel safe to return. Iraq is in the midst of forming a new government and incumbent PM Haider al-Abadi fired the head of the Hashd al-Shaabi committee on Thursday, then he appointed himself to the position.
"Both displaced and returnee populations are often vulnerable and need humanitarian assistance to regain their livelihoods and support their families," Waite added.