Hasan Sham camp for internally displaced persons near Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Social situation Lack of basic services and slow reconstruction

The challenges facing Iraq remain huge: the violent hostilities of the past decades have left its infrastructure in tatters, water and electricity shortages are a frequent occurrence. Reconstruction is proving to be a slow process.

In addition, Iraq was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Nations estimates that the poverty rate rose by ten percentage points to 30 per cent as a result of the pandemic. A large proportion of the population relies on government-run food distribution. This distribution system provides for the needs of more than 30 million of the country’s total of 44.5 million inhabitants.

There is no constant or reliable electricity supply. Households only receive power for a few hours a day via the national grid. They have to meet the rest of their needs by getting electricity from the operators of private generators. Power stations and power networks are outdated and in need of repair, a significant proportion of the electricity is lost in the generation and transmission process.

Climate change is making water shortage even worse

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Water scarcity and drought are among the serious consequences of climate change.

There is a constant decrease in precipitation and water resources. The two main rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris are at risk of drying up within the next 20 years. Water levels of the Tigris have fallen by 28 per cent in the last decades, those of the Euphrates by 73 per cent. The World Bank has warned that Iraq’s water resources could decrease by more than 20 per cent by 2050.

In addition to climate change, overgrazing, overexploitation, and the pollution of rivers and dams are further worsening the situation. What is more, neighbouring countries which are also very much affected by climate change and water shortage, in particular Turkey and Iran, are taking a lot of water from the Tigris and Euphrates upstream. The southern parts of the country in particular are affected by salinisation of the soil, decreasing harvests and conflicts over pasture land and watering points. Climate change will further exacerbate the situation.

In order to improve water management, Germany and Iraq signed an agreement for a joint project for sustainable water supply in the southern parts of the country in December 2022. The project will give 130,000 people in the Muthanna region access to safe water.

Displacement and migration

According to the United Nations, starting in 2014, more than six million people were displaced by the armed conflict in Iraq. About five million of them have meanwhile returned to their home regions. Despite some progress that has been made in terms of rebuilding, the areas liberated from “Islamic State” (IS) control are still characterised by a lack of jobs, housing, and education and health facilities.

In addition, support needs to be provided for around 260,000 people who have fled to Iraq to escape the civil war in Syria (as at March 2024). Most of them – like many of the internally displaced persons – have found refuge in the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The Kurdistan Regional Government and the local people are making massive efforts to rise to these challenges.

As the situation on the whole has significantly improved, Germany will focus its support in future on promoting efforts to address the reign of terror under IS and create a better future for the people. There are still huge differences between the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and central Iraq, between Shia and Sunni groups and between the south, the centre and the north of the country which are a huge burden on the peaceful coexistence of the different ethnic groups and faith communities.

As at: 31/08/2023