Read caption Displaced people from Mosul and surrounding areas in Hasan Sham camp where NRC is providing emergency aid such as food parcels, water and hygiene kits in addition to school support and safe spaces for children. Photo: NRC/Hussein Amri

NRC in Iraq

The humanitarian crisis in Iraq remains one of the largest and most volatile in the world.


Humanitarian and political background

Continuous conflict and economic stagnation have affected nearly every aspect of Iraqi society. Poverty rates in the Kurdish Region have doubled and unemployment has tripled in many communities. Payrolls for government employees have been cut or delayed.

As Iraqi authorities retake more territory from the IS group, there is a huge need for stabilisation – to rebuild homes, hospitals and schools – as well as reconciliation between different ethnic, religious and tribal groups. While sectarian divisions have always existed in Iraq, recent years of conflict have widened these.

Fresh waves of displacement

Although Iraq has a long history of displacement, the pace has been nearly without precedent over the past three years.

In 2014, two million civilians were displaced in Iraq; in 2015, an additional 1.4 million were forced to flee. Every one of the nine major military campaigns during 2016 has created new displacement: close to one million people have been newly displaced by the conflict with the IS group.

Although over two million Iraqis have returned home, more than three million Iraqis remain displaced across federal Iraq and the Kurdish region of Iraq. A referendum for an independent Kurdistan in October 2017 created yet more conflict and displacement in disputed areas of the country.

Continuing humanitarian need

Schools in governorates that were occupied by the IS group are forced to convene three sequential sessions to cope with the increased number of students. Nearly 3.7 million school-aged Iraqi children attend school irregularly or not at all, and more than 760,000 displaced children have missed an entire year of education.

Among the issues created by a lack of documentation are housing, land and property. Women face particular challenges during displacement and once they return as they have fewer opportunities for livelihoods, education and housing. Local buildings and land, meanwhile, may be contaminated with unexploded ordnance and public services and markets may be disrupted, if functioning at all.

NRC in Iraq

Since August 2014, NRC has responded to four of the largest displacement waves in the country - Sinjar, Ramadi, Fallujah and most recently Mosul, Hawija and Kirkuk. NRC is gradually shifting our focus toward the returnee population in their recovery efforts. 

People helped by core competency in 2017

people benefited from our education programme
people benefited from our shelter programme
people benefited from our camp management programme
people benefited from our ICLA programme
people benefited from our WASH programme

Rapid response

Displaced people often take considerable time to reach their intended destinations, encountering delays at screening sites, checkpoints or mustering points. Sometimes they're stranded between the frontlines and other checkpoints. During these transit periods, people are in critical need of emergency supplies – food and water. Water is crucial, especially in the summer's extreme heat and especially for children. As people arrive in camps and informal settlements, they usually don't receive the food and water they need immediately. This is compounded by the fact most flee without hygiene and personal supplies. As a result, people need a first line response before receiving further assistance from the different emergency sectors.

NRC Camp managementCamp management

Over two-thirds of those displaced in Iraq are located in governorates where NRC operates.Less than a third of these people live in displacement camps. Many live in abandoned or unfinished structures, public buildings or rented accommodation, which makes it difficult to locate and reach people. NRC’s camp management programme provides coordination and information services for displaced people across Iraq, regardless of their location. Coordinating with partners helps ensure that all services are provided in camp, and guarantees a protected space for residents.

NRC currently manages a displacement camp in Hamam al Alil, outside Mosul (population – 23,000). We install markets, community centres and other public spaces, and provide information and awareness campaigns. We also supervise a community accountability programme to respond to residents’ comments and issues. In Anbar governorate, NRC has provided training, coaching and in-kind support, like office space and equipment, to camp managers since 2016. We also establish and maintain humanitarian facilities within the sites.

May Hadaya ICLA Coordinator at NRC

She was working as a Lawyer back in Mosul, but ISIS forced May Hadaya to leave her home 3 years ago. Now she is working with the Norwegian Refugee Council helping people from Mosul obtain official identification documents. Want to know more about May? Watch this video #WorldHumanitarianDay #NotATarget #Iraq

Posted by NRC Middle East on 21. august 2017

NRC Information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA)Information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA)

In Iraq, official identification papers are needed for almost everything from enrolling in school, to travelling throughout the country. Children born in areas occupied by the IS group are Iraqi, but marriage and birth certificates issued under IS are not recognised. NRC’s ICLA programme is a cornerstone of the organisation’s work in many countries, as it helps people claim their rights both while they are displaced and when they return home.

Coordinating with relevant authorities, including the Nationality Directorate and Civil Status Directorate in Baghdad, ICLA teams in all our offices help people obtain their official documents and realise their rights in all our offices.

NRC Shelter and settlementsShelter and settlements

As more and more areas in Iraq have been retaken by Iraqi forces, more than two million people have returned home. Ninewa, Anbar and Salah al-din are the main areas where people have returned, but obstacles still exist. Substantial numbers of returnees are facing widespread destruction and need shelter assistance. In some towns, the level of destruction is all but complete and urban planning must be restored before anything else.

Mosul, Ramadi and Fallujah have experienced catastrophic damage. In west Mosul, at least 53,000 houses have been totally destroyed (almost a third of the neighbourhoods); another half moderately damaged. Spontaneous settlements, with poor or little infrastructure are likely to grow on the outskirts of Mosul. Most people live in unfinished buildings as the housing shortage drives up rents – a trend that is likely to continue in other urban areas.

NRC Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) promotion

Years of conflict in Iraq's urban areas have devastated the infrastructure that provides basic services. Water pipes, sewage networks, treatment plants and pumping stations often go unseen until they stop working. In some cases, entire districts are cut off from the water supply. This increases the risk of disease outbreaks caused by poor sanitation and insufficient clean water.

NRC's WASH activities span urban, camp and informal settlements where displaced people reside. Our teams work according to the three phases of crisis – acute emergency, protracted crisis and early recovery.

NRC EducationEducation

Many schools in Iraq have been destroyed or damaged in the recent conflict, and schoolchildren have experienced the horrors of war and displacement. Thousands of displaced and newly returned children do not attend school and are exposed to violence or exploitation, including recruitment into armed groups, child labour and early marriage. NRC provides quality education for conflict-affected, school-aged children and youth.

Over the past year, NRC has constructed over 50 new pre-fabricated classrooms. Attendance rates in NRC-supported schools were consistently above 90 per cent for both male and female students. In Hasam Sham and Khazer camps, we offered education and psychosocial support to over 5,000 newly displaced children from Mosul within 48 hours of their initial displacement.

NRC is the only INGO in Anbar supporting both non-formal and formal education to highly neglected displaced children, and we are the Education Cluster co-lead in all governorates of intervention.

Cash and livelihoods

NRC has advocated for cash assistance where there are functioning markets in Iraq, so that displaced people can make their own choices and meet their own needs. As the current conflict ends, the shift from short-term assistance to recovery programming will catalyse a shift from cash transfers to livelihoods programs within NRC.

Our multi-purpose cash assistance offers one-time or several cash transfers to displaced families, depending on their vulnerability. We are part of the Cash Consortium of Iraq, which pools organisational resources to ensure better coordinated, harmonised cash assistance across larger geographical areas.

After years of displacement and disruption to the economy, up to 8.3 million people need assistance to support themselves and their families. Jobs, assets and social connections have been lost. Savings have been spent and debts incurred. Recovery programmes need to take this into account and NRC is committed to seeing conflict-affected populations through to the point where they are once again self-reliant.

About nrc in iraq

Budget forecast 2017
USD 56 million
International staff
Field offices
Baghdad, Erbil, Dohuk, Kirkuk and Mosul
Budget 2016
USD 39 million
National staff

Country Director

Country Director

Petr Kostohryz


Media spokesperson

Melany Markham

phone+964 (0) 7515019899


Job inquiries

phone +964 751 5018364

Donors to our projects in Iraq:


Urban Shelter Response - Lessons From Baghdad