The Anbar crisis escalated into armed conflict by the end of December 2013. At the centre of the armed conflict were the two largest cities of Anbar province, Fallujah and Ramadi. Use of firearms and rockets within the city boundaries forced residents of Fallujah and Ramadi to flee their hometowns. By March 2014, about 65,000 families had been displaced, mostly to other cities of Anbar but also as far north as the KRG and as far south as Basrah. The severity of the conflict resulted in the whole province being classified by the UN with the security severity level of “very high” or code Black. This meant severe restrictions on movement of UN staff. Consequently many areas remain inaccessible to the UN for assessments. Programme interventions are implemented through partners, mostly non-governmental agencies.
In order to better understand needs of the IDPs, a joint UN mission consisting of UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF conducted a rapid needs assessment in Al-Qaim district of the Anbar province. This report is a summation of the mission reports from the three agencies.
Anbar population is predominantly Arab Sunni. The displaced families from Fallujah and Ramadi have taken refuge in Arab Sunni cities within Anbar province and in other provinces such as Baghdad in the east, Salahuddin and KRG in the north and Basrah in the south. This diverse dispersal indicates additional factors beyond ethnicity and religious sects for selection of their destinations. Safety, affordability and presence of family/friends have been identified as major reasons behind their decisions. While KRG is considered to be the safest, it is expensive for accommodation and the KRG government regulations are less than encouraging. Consequently, only the relatively richer IDPs can afford going to KRG. IDPs going to other provinces such as Baghdad do so primarily due to presence of family/friends at these destinations. Private sector donations, initially generous, have dwindled.
While core relief items, food and water have been supplied to IDPs in Al Qaim, there is a need to increase this support. More detailed assessments, followed by continued assistance have been recommended by the mission. Improvements in shelter and supplies of food and water are recommended. Efforts to reinstate children in schools, improved sanitation and supplies of chlorine for water purification are to be provided. UN advocacy with the government in expediting the reinstatement of the Public Distribution System, government salaries, pensions and the delivery of government cash assistance have been recommended.
While it is hoped the Anbar crisis is resolved soon, there is a need for continued monitoring of the situation as well as drawing up of plans for continued assistance should the crisis prolong.
The purpose of this inter-agency mission was to assess the living conditions and the prevailing needs of the Anbar IDPs living in Al-Obaidy and Al-Qaim towns through visiting the IDP dwellings, collective shelters/centers, meeting with the local authorities and non-governmental organizations.
Due to the security restrictions, the mission was not able to visit Al-Qaim as there was one road side explosion the same day that the mission arrived in Al-Obaidy. The local security forces did not recommend traveling on the road to Al-Qaim. Moreover, the mission security clearance was not covering either Al-Qaim or Al-Obaidy towns but only the Al-Obaidy Refugee Camp.
After clarifying this matter both at Baghdad and mission levels with the security colleagues, it was agreed to have a short visit to the two collective centers in Al-Obaidy town.