Northern Iraq: A life after displacement

Since the advance of the so-called Islamic State and the erupting of the Syrian crisis, the Kurdistan-Iraq Region has taken in one million internally displaced persons and about 250,000 Syrian refugees. New schools, health stations, income-generating opportunities, counselling, training and recreational opportunities make it easier for them to start a new life, as does the new water supply system.

Since the Syrian crisis first broke out in 2011 and since the advance of the so-called Islamic State (IS), about one million internally displaced persons and some 250,000 Syrian refugees have sought refuge in the Kurdistan-Iraq Region in northern Iraq. This is an enormous challenge to the region, whose previous total population was six million. The majority of the newcomers live in normal communities, often with friends or family. Only 40 per cent of them live in camps.

On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has, since 2014, been helping the Kurdish regional government to care for the refugees and internally displaced persons in northern Iraq. This entails firstly making direct improvements to the situation of the people who have fled to the region, and secondly expanding education services, as well as health care and drinking water supplies.

One of the most important tasks is to enable the many children affected to continue their schooling. The existing school buildings are unable to cope with the influx of students; since 2015 GIZ has built 23 new schools in the camps and in the towns of Dohuk and Zakho. Two of them were built in cooperation with UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund. Two more are currently being built. The new schools are currently serving more than 20,000 children and young people. But it is not only the buildings that are stretched to bursting point: classes of up to 60 children are not uncommon. By the end of 2018 a total of 3,000 teachers will have attended methodological and didactic training to enable them to teach these huge classes effectively.

Assistance for the transition: counselling, health centres and jobs

But people also need legal advice, training and recreational activities. All these are provided by 14 community centres, which were established by GIZ in 2015.

Currently, GIZ is running six of these centres with a Kurdish partner. Since many of the refugees are severely traumatised, they need psychosocial care. More than 200 social workers are thus undergoing a three-month training course to enable them to provide psychosocial counselling services, and 1,350 people are being trained to provide psychological first aid. The various services offered by the six centres are in great demand – more than 140,000 people have already made use of them.

Physical health is another focus of work on the ground. In the camps, six health centres have been established and fitted out – one with an obstetrics ward. Four of the centres are run by GIZ’s Kurdish and international partners. They offer the residents of the camps and the surrounding areas free medical care. About 80,000 internally displaced persons alone benefit from this service.

Construction work, cultural and social activities need a lot of willing hands. One of the most urgent wishes of the newcomers though is to earn their own income and to take up employment. The ‘cash for work’ programme offers swift, direct help. Between April 2016 and April 2017, more than 30,000 people were involved in construction projects and social activities and were able to earn a temporary income of around 20 euros a day. One of them was 47-year old Yazidi mother Nada Yussuf Kada, who is bringing up her children alone. With other camp residents, under the direction of GIZ, she built a recreational area and earned one million Iraqi dinars, equivalent to about 800 euros. ‘The first thing I bought was a water filter, because the water quality is not very good. Then I bought a wardrobe and a television. We will probably have to stay in the camp for a long time to come. I believe it is important to make your home as nice as possible.’

As at: May 2017