Where the Heart is: Five Years of IOM Shelter Interventions in Iraq

Erbil – Since 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq has assisted over 15,000 families across the country through shelter interventions with the sustained support of the United States of America. Earlier today, IOM held a ceremony at the Catholic University in Erbil to mark this milestone, achieved through five years of housing repair, rehabilitation and reconstruction; debris removal and recycling; housing, land and property (HLP) support; and shelter assistance in informal sites.

Between 2014 and 2017, conflict with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) displaced millions of people from their homes and created devastating material, economic and social repercussions across the country. Private housing was particularly hard hit, with approximately 140,000 residential buildings damaged or destroyed. The conflict left behind an estimated 55 million tonnes of debris – for many families, this debris is all that remains of their original homes.

A significant number lost not only their homes but also their home ownership and occupancy documents, leaving them without the means to prove that their property and land are indeed theirs. Add to this the over 104,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in critical conditions in informal sites – locations typically unintegrated with surrounding communities and excluded from public services – and the urgency of shelter interventions in Iraq becomes especially salient.

“Although increasingly viewed as a commodity in many contexts, access to adequate housing is a fundamental right inscribed in international law,” said IOM Iraq Deputy Chief of Mission, Caroline Henderson. “Lack of safe, dignified housing can make sustainable returns extremely difficult, put women and girls in particular at risk of gender-based violence and cause additional hardship for households including elderly relatives and persons with disabilities or limited mobility.”

Information coming directly from displacement-affected communities has consistently revealed that housing destruction remains not only one of the biggest obstacles to return faced by IDPs, but also one of the largest challenges to reintegrating and achieving durable solutions for those who have already returned.

"We are very proud of the work that we have achieved together with IOM. The rehabilitation of 15,000 shelter units represents a monumental effort,” said U.S. Consul General, Irvin Hicks Jr. “The United States has long been a committed partner to Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and remains committed to supporting efforts to build a more equitable society for all Iraqis. Together, we have made tangible improvements in the lives of those affected by conflict.”

Addressing all levels of housing damage – from partial to full – in synergy with other interventions allows IOM and its partners to comprehensively respond to a wide range of needs, not only through shelter repair and reconstruction, but also through the establishment of environmentally-sustainable debris recycling plants operated by returnees from the local community, the provision of HLP-related legal services and more.

The ceremony highlighted work implemented by IOM with support from Samaritan’s Purse, Kurdish Organization for Human Rights Watch and ACTED; resourced by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration; and made possible by strong partnerships with local counterparts: from the respective Governor’s offices to local mayors, registries and courts, to community leaders and civil society organizations, to the Government of Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displaced and Joint Coordination and Monitoring Center (JCMC).

IOM will continue to cooperate with the Government of Iraq, local communities and national and international partners to action innovative, comprehensive projects in areas of displacement, return and relocation to assist the sustainable reintegration of IDPs.


For more information, please contact:

IOM Iraq’s Public Information Unit,

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