A man and his grandson remove debris from the street in front of their house in Mosul. Photo: AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The United Nations will focus its aid efforts in Iraq on helping two million displaced persons return home this year.
Helping displaced Iraqis return home and rebuild their lives will be a focus of the United Nations in Iraq for 2018 after the conclusion of large-scale military offensives last year, the UN stated in a joint announcement with the Iraqi government.
“As people return to their areas of origin with a large number of camps in Iraq becoming consolidated or decommissioned during the course of this year, many will need assistance including those who are returning as well as those who are unable to,” said Ramanathan Balakrishnan, the UN’s acting humanitarian coordinator in Iraq.
Noting that an estimated two million Iraqis are expected to return home this year, Balakrishnan stressed that the importance of ensuring returns are voluntary.
“Continued advocacy by the humanitarian community against involuntary or premature returns and strengthening mechanisms with the government authorities for supporting voluntary and safe returns is a key component of the 2018 humanitarian response plan,” he said.
There are currently more than 2.3 million Iraqis displaced, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Some 3.5 million have already returned to their homes.
As of the end of December, the Kurdistan Region was hosting 1.19 million displaced Iraqis and over 273,000 refugees.
At the peak of the conflict with ISIS, some 1.8 million people were sheltering within the Kurdistan Region.
Though people are now beginning to return home, the Kurdistan Region has received hundreds of newly displaced families from Mosul this year. Some fled because of threats from militias and others noted lack of services and security. “The security is very fragile and deteriorating,” the KRG’s aid department stated in February.
The United Nations and its partners have requested $569 million in funding to meet the needs of 3.4 million of the most vulnerable Iraqis. The UN estimated that 8.7 million people, “nearly half of them children,” will need humanitarian assistance of some form in 2018.