Sinjar district is located in Ninewa governorate, directly to the west of Telafar district and bordering Syria on its north and west sides. It was one of the areas most devastated by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and the legacy of the group’s control of the area is still acutely felt. Sinjar - both the district and the town that gives the district its name – is the primary home of Iraq’s Yezidi population, who suffered some of the worst abuses at the hands of ISIL, crimes that were ultimately assessed to constitute genocide. Beyond the human cost, it was estimated that ISIL destroyed 80% of public infrastructure and 70% of civilian homes in Sinjar city and the surrounding area. By February 2021, an estimated 116,790 individuals had returned to their areas of origin in the Sinjar district, though as many as 200,000 may remain in displacement. Returnees report that services and livelihoods have yet to recover from the destruction wrought by ISIL, problems that are particularly pronounced in rural areas. Further, social fissures and tensions created as a result of the ISIL occupation are reported, paired with a dearth of reconciliation processes to defuse and resolve them.
The towns of Tel Banat and Tel Qasab, located in the al Qairawan sub-district of Sinjar district, also reflect these dynamics. These two communities are located approximately 10 and 17 kilometres, respectively, southeast of the town of Sinjar. They were founded in the 1970s as “complexes” designed to house Yezidi households deported from villages throughout the Sinjar district. In 2014, the communities were completely depopulated as residents fled the impending assault by ISIL. Following re-capture of the areas by Government of Iraq (GoI) forces, households have begun to return, though the most recent figures suggest the majority of households may remain in either primary or secondary displacement. The International Organization for Displacement’s (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) Return Index indicated that the severity of conditions and needs was high but there was previously a lack of other localized information on these areas.
As the context in Iraq has transitioned into post-conflict recovery and stabilization, the priority of the government and the humanitarian community has shifted to facilitating safe and durable solutions to displacement through sustainable return, local integration, or relocation. In April 2020, the Durable Solutions Task Force (DSTF) was established through the humanitarian coordination architecture of Iraq. The DSTF is a body designed to bring together humanitarian, development, stabilization, and peacebuilding actors in a dedicated platform working towards solutions to displacement in Iraq. The Task Force is supported by two national-level groups, the Returns Working Group (RWG) and the newlyestablished Durable Solutions Technical Working Group (DSTWG). The DSTWG was designed to focus on the design and implementation of programs and approaches aimed at supporting durable solutions in Iraq. As part of this mandate, the DSTWG has established area-based coordination (ABC) groups in several locations across Iraq to promote area-based approaches to durable solutions and coordinate programming, response, and strategy on a local scale. The Sinjar district is one of these locations where an ABC has been established, of which REACH is a member.
With the shift in context in Sinjar, detailed information on service provision and household needs and vulnerabilities in areas of return is crucial to inform planning and activities. To support the ABC’s planning and the operations of fellow members and other actors, REACH conducted an area-based assessment (ABA) in the communities of Tel Banat and Tel Qasab in Sinjar District. Data collection was carried out between the 23rd of May and the 30th of August, 2021. The ABA was funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and REACH developed its research design in collaboration with UNHCR, IOM, and the Sinjar ABC. Consistent with previous ABAs, the current assessment collected information on the current needs and vulnerabilities of households in these two communities, as well as existing services and perceptions of households in the area. For this ABA, REACH also integrated components designed to (1) assess social cohesion between households in the two communities and households in communities in the surrounding area and (2) assess the circumstances of households from the two communities who are presently in primary and secondary displacement. Data was collected to provide a multi-sectoral overview of circumstances in the communities, bridge existing information gaps, and inform ongoing or planned humanitarian interventions. More specifically, in addition to demographic data, needs were assessed across seven identified sectors: livelihoods, protection, shelter and non-food items, food security and markets, healthcare, education, and basic services (electricity, water, solid waste disposal, wastewater disposal).