When they return to their home communities, Iraqis displaced by the current crisis face a host of challenges, including the destruction of infrastructure, housing and property. Access to basic services, availability of drinking water, food, health care, shelter and livelihood opportunities are all ongoing sources of concern.
During community assessments in areas retaken from ISIL, IOM staff have met many returned Iraqis whose homes are damaged. They are often staying with their relatives or neighbours, and some are living in tents next to their homes. Due to the hardship and expense of displacement and return, the cost of home repair may be prohibitive for many families.
Damage often includes burned rooms, destroyed roofs, and no access to water. In response to these needs, IOM is rehabilitating homes for vulnerable Iraqi returnee families with support from the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). This is enabling families to safely and sustainably move back into their homes.
The project provides repairs for damaged or partially destroyed homes, the rehabilitation of a minimum of one room, the replacement of doors and windows and installation of basic water and sanitation facilities. Families are selected and prioritized based on the state of their home and vulnerability, with special consideration for female-headed households.
The current phase of the project began in December 2016 and includes a total of 200 houses in Salah al-Din and Diyala, which are 40 percent complete. Locations in Salah al-Din include Tikrit City, Al Alam, and Dour. Assistance for returnee families to rehabilitate damaged homes will also be provided in Al-Qayara.
The previous phase of the OFDA project in 2016 included the rehabilitation of 400 homes in the same two governorates, benefitting 2,800 individuals. Marwa and her nine children, granddaughter and daughter-in-law were displaced from Aledhaym sub- district in Diyala governorate in June 2014.
“Prior to displacement our lives were excellent and stable. Our region had prosperous agriculture; our family cultivated wheat and watermelon. We fled because of the arrival of armed groups and clashes between them and the army. We fled in our small car. We brought blankets, a few clothes, our ID cards documents and enough food for two days,” she said.
“We rented houses during our displacement, but we were forced to move from one house to another. These houses were unfinished and lacked doors and windows. We sold our car to have money to pay for our basic needs, including food, clothing and housing.”
“It was not until September 2016 that we felt it was safe to return to our village. We found our house was burned, but we stayed because we did not have any other options. We no longer have the tools for agriculture, so my eldest son is planning to open a shop near our home.
He is currently just working as a labourer when there are opportunities. My other children have not yet had an opportunity to return to their studies. We were not able to afford the renovations, but now IOM has renovated our bathroom and living room. The new space will keep us safe,” she added.
IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Thomas Lothar Weiss said: “As returns increase in Iraq, it is necessary to expand strategies and funding to assist returnees; shelter provision is a main priority. IOM is pleased to support thousands of Iraqi families with shelter support in cooperation with the Government of Iraq and our donors to promote and support sustainable long-term return.”
The OFDA-funded project also includes shelter upgrades to assist displaced families living in unfinished buildings, schools, religious buildings, and other critical shelter arrangements. In 2016 more than 700 families in Baghdad, Najaf, Kerbala, Babylon, Qadissiya and Wassit governorates benefitted from these emergency rehabilitation works and upgrades, carried out by contractors and IOM staff.
The 2017 phase of the project will assist more than 600 families in critical shelter arrangements. Methods for these upgrades are compiled in IOM Iraq Mission’s recent publication, Rehabilitating, Repairing and Upgrading Critical Shelters and Damaged Houses.
Drawing from hands-on experience on the ground, the booklet presents shelter guidelines that aim to offer step-by-step guidance in repairing and upgrading critical shelters and damaged houses. The information is directed at the humanitarian aid community, IDP community members, and camp technical working committees.
The text provides guidelines for upgrades often needed for critical shelters, including internal wall partitions, roof repair and electrical safety. Rehabilitation guidelines for damaged houses includes: ceiling floor and wall repair, plastering and painting, and electrical rewiring.
As one of the largest shelter partners in Iraq, in 2016 IOM assisted more than 10,000 Iraqi families with shelter support including emergency sealing-off kits, emergency shelter kits, home rehabilitation and repair of critical shelter arrangements and homes.
Amid continued displacement from Mosul operations and the ongoing displacement of more than 3 million Iraqis across the country, thousands of Iraqis are choosing to return home. The latest IOM Iraq Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) dataset identified over 3 million displaced Iraqis and more than 1.5 million returnees from the period of January 2014 to mid-February 2017.
Return figures across Iraq governorates, as tracked by DTM (by number of individuals), are: Anbar (702,700), Salah al-Din (375,000), Diyala (202,100), Ninewa (186,300), Baghdad (31,000), Erbil (29,000) and Kirkuk (3,400).
These figures, covering returns through 16 February, represent an increase since the previous DTM dataset (returns through 2 February) of more than 32,700 individuals in Anbar governorate, 17,800 individuals in Ninewa, and 800 individuals in Diyala.
More than 161,000 Iraqis continue to be displaced as a result of Mosul military operations, which began on 17 October. In total nearly 224,000 individuals have been displaced by Mosul military operations; more than 62,000 have returned to their areas of origin. Of the currently displaced, the majority (more than 150,000) are currently within Ninewa governorate.