2015 Middle East Report
BACKGROUND Iraqi Christian families — despite being driven from their ancestral homes by ISIS over a year ago — remain resilient even as they live in containers and other makeshift housing arrangements. This is attributed largely to the presence of the local churches that, with the support of the worldwide church, have delivered aid according to need, impacting all Christian traditions as well as those from other religious communities, especially the Yazidis. Accompanying their flock into exile, bishops, priests, sisters and lay leaders have lived under the same conditions, focusing on the care of their people and the provision of necessities, such as shelter, clothing, food and other basics. Although many Iraqi Christian displaced families are looking for ways to leave their homeland permanently, some want to return to their homes in the Nineveh Plain, provided that international protection is secured. They believe this is possible, provided protections are enforced by non-Western entities. But refugees and relief agencies are settling in for the long haul, as agencies shift from emergency relief to long-term assistance to the displaced. The displacement of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Arabs by ISIS has had an impact on the host communities as well. In 12 months, Iraqi Kurdistan’s population swelled by 28 percent. In
some places, such as the Dohuk province, which is also home to the Kurdish region’s largest Syrian refugee camp, the displaced population has surpassed the local Kurdish population. Poverty has doubled. The territory’s health and education sectors are feeling the pressure, and the economy is also suffering as the influx of workers is reducing wages and household incomes. Should ISIS continues its assault on northern Iraq, the crisis will likely worsen. While the influx of families from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain has adversely impacted the Kurdistan region of Iraq, the flood of Syrian refugees has fueled an economic and humanitarian crisis for its government. According to a newly completed report sponsored by the World Bank and the Kurdish government, economic growth contracted 5 percentage points, and the poverty rate increased from 3.5 percent to 8.1 percent of the population. An additional $1.4 billion is needed in additional spending above and beyond the government’s budget to stabilize the situation in 2015. This estimate will increase as the crisis persists. While the Kurdish Regional Government has been responsive in addressing the needs of the displaced, more resources are needed to avert a humanitarian crisis in the medium and long term.
Catholic Near East Welfare Association