Overview and Impact
The majority of displaced families are expected to return to their communities by the end of the year
The humanitarian crisis in Iraq is entering a new phase. Combat operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have ended and hundreds of thousands of displaced people are returning to their homes and communities.
Retaken areas are being cleared of explosive hazards and rubble and major efforts are underway to restore electricity, water and sewage grids, re-establish the Government’s social protection floor, jump-start local economies and open schools and health centres. Displaced camps are being consolidated and decommissioned and modalities are being put in place for ensuring that the highly vulnerable families who are currently receiving assistance from humanitarian partners are covered under the Government’s new Poverty Reduction Strategy.
The human toll of four years of intensive, virtually non-stop combat has been enormous. In 2014, 2.5 million civilians were displaced inside Iraq; in 2015, more than one million people fled their homes; in 2016, an additional 700,000 people fled and in 2017, 1.7 million civilians were newly displaced. Population movements have been multi-directional; at the same time that hundreds of thousands of people have been fleeing their homes, hundreds of thousands have been returning.
The pace and scale of displacement have made the Iraq crisis one of the largest and most volatile in the world. Civilians have been at extreme risk throughout, from aerial bombardment, artillery barrage, cross-fire, snipers, and unexploded ordnance. Tens of thousands of civilians have been used as human shields and hundreds of thousands have survived siege-like conditions.
The military operation to retake Mosul, starting in October 2016 and ending nine months later in July 2017, was the longest urban battle since World War II. In accordance with the army’s humanitarian concept of operations, one million civilians were safely evacuated from the city in the largest managed evacuation from a combat zone in modern history.
Humanitarians were on the frontlines and in emergency camps throughout, liaising with Iraqi security forces to ensure civilians were evacuated safely and providing life-saving assistance to the 1.7 million people who either fled or stayed in their homes. Priority was given to reaching civilians as soon as they crossed to safety; a reported 20,000 severely wounded people were referred to hospitals during the offensive, including 12,700 people who were stabilized at frontline trauma posts managed by health partners.
It will take years to rebuild Iraq. Damage and loss assessments conducted by the Ministry of Planning and analysed by the World Bank estimate that reconstruction will take at least 10 years and cost well over US$88 billion.