BAGHDAD (UNAMI) — Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ms. Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano, visited Hawija district in Kirkuk governorate. She called for scaled up efforts to meet the needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees in areas of origin; work with the communities; and support the Iraqi Government in promoting local reintegration of IDPs and effective protection.
“Hearing from returnees in Hawija about their ongoing hardship three years after the conclusion of the military operations against ISIL reinforced how much work remains, both here in Kirkuk and throughout Iraq,” said Ms. Vojáčková-Sollorano. “While the United Nations and humanitarian partners are working to facilitate voluntary, safe and dignified returns and provide support in return areas, it’s evident that we need to redouble all efforts. We are coordinating closely with the Government of Iraq, local authorities, and development partners to help make returns sustainable. However, we will not be able to ensure humanitarian and development services for the people of Hawija without open, unimpeded and sustainable access for our work — to both returnees and the communities to which they return.”
Representatives for OCHA, UNHCR, IOM, and UNDP joined the Humanitarian Coordinator on the mission. During her visit, Ms. Vojáčková-Sollorano met with the Mayor of Al Zab sub-district and returnee families and laid the groundwork for the future collaboration between humanitarian and development actors working in the area — to ensure the scale up of area-based coordination in Hawija.
As of October 2020, over 163,000 IDPs had returned to their areas of origin in Hawija district, according to IOM’s Return Index. Absence of basic services and insecurity continues, however, with over 64,000 returnees living in poor conditions, highlighted by a lack of livelihood opportunities, services, social cohesion and security. Many formerly displaced persons could not return to their homes due to extensive damage or destruction, and ended up renting accommodation, staying in crowded accommodation with relatives or living in unfinished houses. Hawija has also recently received approximately 2,000 IDPs after the latest round of camp closures. Both returnees and IDPs in the district are in urgent need of shelter, cash assistance, sources of income, civil documentation and social cohesion.
IOM, UNHCR, UNDP, and OCHA are engaged in activities to support the urgent needs of IDPs, returnees, host communities and other vulnerable populations in Iraq, in collaboration with the government. UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization has completed 132 projects in Kirkuk to support infrastructure rehabilitation, immediate livelihood support and capacity support to the local municipality. Hawija continues to be a priority area for intervention as the project moves into its next phase of delivery. UNHCR continues to support vulnerable IDPs and returnees through the distribution of cash assistance to meet their basic needs; 58% of the IDPs targeted for the winter have already received this assistance. UNHCR is also providing legal assistance to families to obtain civil and property documentation and working with partners to rehabilitate infrastructure in areas of return. IOM’s work in Kirkuk has been focused on infrastructure rehabilitation, community engagement and livelihoods — notably through individual livelihoods assistance, cash for work and the Enterprise Development Fund (EDF). EDF encourages private sector job creation and economic recovery and development through tailored support to Small and Medium Enterprises; so far, 93 businesses in Kirkuk have received over USD 1.5 million in funding through this mechanism.
Ms. Vojáčková-Sollorano reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to enhancing humanitarian assistance for both IDPs and returnees, and its readiness to continue collaborating with the Government of Iraq, local authorities and partners in addressing challenges related to stabilization, reconstruction, and development.