Nearly two years after the US withdrawal, Iraq is still struggling to recover from the decade long occupation. This is illustrated through many facets of Iraqi society, such as 1,131,810 internally displaced persons (IDPs) still reside in Iraq, with over 200,000 living in Baghdad. Rather than the number of IDPs declining, the violence and unrest in 2013 has produced a surge in new IDPs.
As one of othe most vulnerable of Iraq’s populations, IDP’s live in makeshift or temporary shelters, and face the constant risk of violence and alienation. An enormous number of Iraqi IDPs are unemployed, and when they do find work the income is meager. Many IDPs rely on food assistance from the government via the Public Distribution System (PDS), which is oftentimes inconsistent or incomplete. IDPs also lack proper access to education, which led to higher drop-out rates and an illiteracy rate of approximately 30%. These problems are further compounded by the fact that many IDPs are undocumented, which prevents them from receiving government assistance [link]. Additionally, Iraqi IDPs who live in makeshift or temporary homes face the imminent problem of winter weather, as they do not have protection from the harsh temperatures or the seasonal flooding.
In particular, women and girls are the most vulnerable. They make up over 80% of the Iraqi IDP population, and are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence, as well as domestic violence. Many of these women are single, meaning that they are the primary provider for their children. On the other hand, there are many women who are unaccompanied altogether, leaving them with little protection from violence.
International organizations such as the UNHCR, WHO, and UNESCO are doing what they can to provide Iraqi IDPs with legal assistance, as well as access to food, shelter, health care, protection from violence, and education. However, with the huge influx of Syrian refugees into Iraq, this is becoming increasingly difficult as their resources are stretched thin. Iraqi IDPs are the victims are years of violence and oftentimes multiple displacements, and thus do not have many resources to help themselves. With the continued increasing violence that is spreading across the country, their situations are unlikely to change in the near future. If you have not yet done so, please sign our petition urging President Obama to keep Iraq and all of its most pressing matters on his administration’s agenda.