Half of Families in Drought-Affected Iraq need Assistance

One in two families in drought-affected Iraq need food assistance

The scale of suffering inflicted by drought on Iraq's populations this year is laid bare in new research by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

It shows that one in two families in drought-affected regions require food assistance because of drought, while one in five do not have sufficient food for everyone in the family.

Communities across Iraq have faced damaging losses to their crops, livestock, and income. Children are eating less, and farmers and displaced populations are hit hardest.

According to NRC's research, which surveyed 2,800 households in drought-affected areas across the country:

  • 37% of wheat farmers and 30% of barley farmers have suffered crop failure of at least 90% of expected harvest,
  • 37% percent of households have lost cattle, sheep or goats in the last six months, mainly due to insufficient water, inadequate feed or disease,
  • The average monthly income in six out of seven governorates surveyed has dropped lower than the monthly survival threshold.[i]

Samira*, 46, has returned from displacement to Mosul to farm her land with two of her five children, but has already seen reductions in produce. "Our production has decreased due to water shortage recently, which also led to a decrease in our income... I can't afford the necessary food for my family so I borrow money from my relatives or buy food on credit," she told NRC.

Over the past few years, drought conditions, rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall have reflected the growing threat of climate change in the country. Water flow from upstream countries has also receded.

"Our harvest has dropped due to drought. Our land was thriving but now it is losing its value day after day and no one seems to care about what farmers are facing. Our land used to produce 20 tonnes each season, now it's no more than 10 or 11 tonnes," said Osama, a 27-year-old farmer from Hawija.

Such extreme circumstances have forced people to leave their home, compounding the displacement crisis in Iraq. Of those surveyed, 1 in 15 households told NRC that a family member had migrated in the last 30 days in search of work and income. Many of those had been in displacement at least once before, or had just returned home. Young people are particularly vulnerable as our research shows that 45% of people aged 15-24 had left their farming communities to find a job in towns and cities, while 38% have lost a job.

The outlook for 2022 is worrying, with continued water shortages and drought conditions likely to devastate the coming farming season. This may increase families' reliance on purchased water as well as poor hygiene practices, which could lead to disease outbreaks. There are signs of waves of displacement already taking place amid water scarcity, income losses, and rising food prices within farming communities.

"Families are telling us they have to borrow money to eat amid soaring prices and dwindling savings. They say their only source of living is vanishing in front of their eyes. Their lands are drying up and there is nothing they can do about it. This is all rooted in a water shortage crisis," said Maithree Abeyrathna, NRC's Head of Programmes in Iraq.

"We want to see solid water management plans to support communities badly hit and prevent future shocks, and these plans must be informed by farmers themselves."

NRC is also calling for international assistance to support livestock farmers and provide irrigation rehabilitation and drought tolerant seeds to reduce crop failure and crop losses. The Governments of Iraq and Kurdish Regional Government are encouraged to incorporate climate-mitigation strategies within national job creation efforts and advocate for water-sharing agreements to be upheld by upstream countries to prepare for the future effects of climate change in Iraq and continued drought conditions.

*Name changed to protect identities

Read the full report here.

Facts and figures:

  • NRC interviewed 2,806 households in Anbar, Basra, Duhok, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salah Al-Din, and Thi Qar governorates.
  • 300 internally displaced people and 1,500 returnees are among the respondents.
  • An additional survey was conducted with 100 food vendors and livestock traders, as well as 48 key informant interviews with community stakeholders and authorities, namely local authority representatives and employees of the Department of Agriculture or Department of Irrigation.
  • NRC is responding by providing drought-tolerant wheat seed varieties to more than 2,000 families in Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Anbar governorates to help with crop losses and crop failure amidst ongoing drought conditions. NRC has also supported more than 200 families with cash-based livestock feed in Sinjar and Baaj.

(Source: NRC)

(Photo Credit: Fared Baram/ NRC)

The post Half of Families in Drought-Affected Iraq need Assistance first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Iraqi Camp Closures leave 100,000 in Limbo

The ongoing rapid closure of displacement camps in Iraq is rendering homeless more than 100,000 people in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and at the onset of winter.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is extremely concerned about the fate of thousands of displaced families living in camps across the country that are being closed down rapidly, including NRC-managed Hammam Al Alil Camp.

People in camps in Baghdad, Kerbala, Divala, Suleimaniya, Anbar, Kirkuk and Ninewa are being forced out with little notice, and are expected to return to their areas of origin. Many come from neighbourhoods that are still totally destroyed and they also risk being blocked at checkpoints, or even arrested, because of lack of security clearance and perceived affiliation with armed groups.

"Closing camps before residents are willing or able to return to their homes does little to end the displacement crisis. On the contrary, it keeps scores of displaced Iraqis trapped in this vicious cycle of displacement, leaving them more vulnerable than ever, especially in the middle of a raging pandemic," said NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland.

So far, based on instructions by the Iraqi authorities, some 600 households have left Hammam Al Alil Camp -- which is one of the largest displacement camps slated to close by next week.

Ahlam, a 49-year-old woman from Mosul living in Hammam Al Alil, burst into tears upon hearing about her forced eviction from the camp. "This is my home. Why would you force me out of my home? We will become homeless. It feels like a funeral to me." She said her last resort would be to set up her tent somewhere in Mosul. Some camp residents have had to sell their tents simply to cover transport costs to go back to their areas of origin.

Tracking of people who have been forced to leave camps in Baghdad and Kerbala in the past weeks shows that nearly half of them have not been able to return to their areas of origin so far, according to the International Organisation of Migration. Many end up in precarious settings on the edge of towns, in damaged, unsafe apartments or unfinished buildings, lacking basic necessities and health care, and forced into further displacement.

A 47-year-old woman pushed out of a camp last year recounted how she had to move four times before ending up in another camp -- a scenario faced also last week by evicted families who made plans to move to another camp only to be told the second camp is closing down too.

"The most difficult thing when they transport you in cars and you don't know where you are heading, is to know that most of these areas do not want you," the woman said.

NRC calls on the Iraqi government to provide a clear plan for camp closures and share that information with families at least a month ahead so that they can make necessary arrangements. Authorities need to ensure coordination with receiving districts so that returnees are not turned away at checkpoints, as well as involve humanitarian organisations in the planning so that returnees can be helped en route and upon arrival at their destination. Those who are unable to return safely to their homes also need to be provided with resettlement and local integration options.

"Anything short of such measures will expose tens of thousands of displaced Iraqis to continued deprivation, rejection and violence," Jan Egeland added. "We urge the international community to keep supporting the Iraqis forced out of camps, many of whom have no chance of returning home. With the pandemic and onset of winter, it is urgent to scale up emergency support."

(Source: NRC, ReliefWeb)

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