Humanitarian response

Ensuring UNICEF Iraq delivers timely, equitable and principled humanitarian action

UNICEF Iraq/2018/Anmar


Humanitarian Response

The UNICEF humanitarian response in Iraq is supported by the Field Delivery team and includes: support to sector/cluster coordination; delivery of seasonal response (winter support); deployment of life saving emergency response mechanisms (RRM and MSEP) and support to delivery of UNICEF emergency and humanitarian response through technical assistance and oversight, preparedness planning and response coordination, resource mobilisation, analysis and advocacy. 

Challenge (context)

Humanitarian partners estimate that around 8.7 million people across Iraq (including over 4.1 million children) require some form of humanitarian assistance in 2018.  2.6 million people are still displaced and continue to require vital services in both formal and informal settlements. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are returning to their communities, but the conditions in the areas of origin are marked by enduring insecurity, damage to personal properties and public infrastructures and limited access to public services, all of which complicates the return process. 

Iraq also hosts over 240,000 Syrian refugees, more than half of whom are children under 18 years of age, and around 95 per cent of whom live in the three northern governorates of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Refugees continue to face many challenges, including limited livelihood opportunities and exhaustion of savings, which has compelled Syrian refugee households to resort to negative coping mechanisms.Over 90,000 refugees live in nine camps in Northern Iraq and remain dependent on support from the Government and humanitarian community.

UNICEF Iraq/2018/Anmar
A boy carries boxes of winter clothes supplied by UNICEF in Northern Iraq



The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) targeted 3.4 million people in need in Iraq, and was committed to facilitating or providing access to services, assistance packages or protection as required the following strategic priorities:supporting highly vulnerable displaced families living in camps and sub-standard accommodation; highly vulnerable displaced families willing to return to their homes but are unable to do so without assistance; highly vulnerable people inadequately covered under the social protection floor and people affected by violence. The humanitarian partners engaged in the HRP will also reach as many newly displaced families as possible by securing safe access and providing sequenced emergency packages. 

UNICEF’s strategy under its 2018 Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) Appeal in Iraq is aligned with the HRP. In 2018, UNICEF took a flexible approach to reaching people in need in Iraq, regardless of location. Families on the move will be reached through the Rapid Response Mechanism, and people in retaken communities were reached through a multi-sectoral response during and post-conflict. 

For the Syrian Refugee Response, key priorities for 2018 3RP were resilience-oriented programmes that target refugees both in and out of camps, strengthening the capacity of local government to deliver quality and sustainable essential services, and in particular Water and Sanitation services to refugees in established camps. 

Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM)

The Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) delivers immediate, life-saving assistance, within 72 hours of a trigger being activatedto highly at-risk families while they are on the move in hard-to-reach areas or caught at checkpoints between military front lines. Each RRM kit, which is meant to be a week’s supply per family, consists of immediate response food rations, a hygiene kit, a dignity kit, potable water and a water container. The consortium is jointly coordinated by UNICEF, UNFPA, and WFPand delivered through NGO partners.

At the height of the conflict in Mosul in 2017, the RRM Consortium reached more than 2.49 million vulnerable people, including 1.36 million children, with emergency response packages to support access to safe water, hygiene items, and food rations.

In 2018, the RRM Consortium targeted delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people, including children, on the move due to crisis or camp relocation. Furthermore, RRM assistance was be extended to highly vulnerable returnee populations requiring support during their repatriations.

During 2018, the Consortium also worked to strengthen existing government structures to better cope with future emergencies, and will transfer knowledge on RRM concepts, lessons learnt, best practices, and operational modalities to lay groundwork for transition and an exit strategy.

Multi Sectoral Emergency Package (MSEP)

UNICEF, UNFPA, and WFP jointly coordinate the Multi-Sector Emergency Package (MSEP) delivering aid in retaken areas.

Since the start of operations to retake ISIL-held areas in late 2016, UNICEF has supported the delivery of multi-sector emergency packages (MSEP) through our NGO partners. MSEP is designed to reach people in need who are caught inside conflict areas and cannot or do not want to flee. The package includes water treatment tablets, high energy biscuits, food rations, hygiene items, and awareness raising leaflets on child protection issues and preventing child separation during displacement. 

In 2017, UNICEF and partners supported 1.2 million people, (of which 707,512 were children) in the communities of Anbar, Hawija, Ninawa, and Salah al Din. 

Winter Response

Northern Iraq experiences extreme temperatures ranging from higher than 50 degrees celsius in summer months to below zero degrees celsius in winter. For displaced and refugee families, winter becomes a trial of hardship and survival. Lack of access to electricity, fuel and poorly insulated makeshift shelter, schools and makeshift shelters makes it especially hard to keep children warm. Children are especially vulnerable to the cold and respiratory infections. 

Every winter season, UNICEF provides winter clothes and blankets to the most vulnerable children, which is a lifesaving response, especially for children living in precarious situations such as mountainous regions where temperatures dip below freezing points. 

Under the 2017/2018 winter response, UNICEF protected 426,000 vulnerable children in nine governorates from the harsh extremes of winter through the distribution of winter clothing kits, winter boots, winter school uniforms, thermal blankets and heaters for Child-Friendly Spaces.

For the 2018/2019 winter season, UNICEF aimed to reach an additional 200,000 children with winterization packages. 

Cluster / Sector Coordination

In Iraq, for IDP (‘cluster’) response, UNICEF co-leads the education cluster with Save the Children International (SCI);and leads the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) clusterwithAction Contre la Faimas co-coordinator, the child protection sub-cluster with SCI as co-coordinator and the Nutrition Working Group, under the wider umbrella of the Health Cluster. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Health (MoH), UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) coordinate with relevant line Ministries through the Cholera Taskforce. For Syrian refugee (‘sector’) response, UNICEF and UNHCR co-lead the WASH sector and the Child Protection sub-sector. In the Education sector, UNICEF co-leads with Save the Children International. UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ministry of Health (MoH), and Centre for Disease Control (CDC) coordinate to monitor Acute Watery Diarrhea/cholera cases under the Joint Preparedness and Response Plan first which was initiated during the 2017 cholera outbreak. 

Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) Cluster

The WASH cluster ensures the delivery of water, sanitation and hygiene promotion assistanceto affected populations in Iraq through better coordination of the response at all levels. The cluster aims to strengthen the humanitarian response by demanding high standards of predictability, accountability and partnership. It ensures more strategic responses and better prioritization of available resources by clarifying the division of work among organizations, and better definition of the roles and responsibilities of humanitarian organizations operating in the sector.

In 2018, the cluster ensured that at-risk communities receive safe, sustained, equitable access to a sufficient quantity of water, sanitation and hygiene 

Child Protection Sub-Cluster

The protection of children during emergencies is an Area of Responsibility (AoR) within the Protection Cluster which is facilitated through the Child Protection AoR. As the designated Focal Point Agency for the Child Protection AoR, UNICEF in Iraq coordinates the Child Protection sub-cluster and is the provider of last resort . The group brings together NGOs, UN agencies, academics and others under the shared objective of ensuring more predictable, accountable and effective child protection responses across the country.

In 2018, the sub-cluster provided protection support to highly vulnerable children affected by the conflict.

Education Cluster

The Education Cluster ensures the provision of equitable access to education in a safe and protective environment to conflict and crisis affected children in Iraq. The Cluster is an open formal forumfor coordination and collaboration on education in the country, which brings together NGOs, UN agencies, academics, and other partners under the shared goal of ensuring predictable, well-coordinated and equitable provision of education for populations affected by humanitarian crises.

In 2018, the cluster expanded access to quality, safe and protective learning spaces for children and youth affected by conflict.

Nutrition Working Group

The Nutrition Working Group safeguard and improve the nutritional status of conflict and crisis affected populations in Iraq by ensuring an appropriate response that is predictable, timely and effective and at scale.

In 2018, the working group aimed to reduce malnutrition related morbidity and mortality for displaced and vulnerable people in conflict-affected and other critical areas. 

Situation Reports