The humanitarian crisis in Iraq has been deteriorating rapidly: the ongoing conflict has been dispersing populations throughout the country and putting them in need of assistance. The European Commission is responding with all its humanitarian aid tools and coordinating with Member States through the European Commission's Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC). Still, the crisis exceeds the present capacity of the international community to respond.
Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, has visited Iraq twice this year - in March and August, to assess the emergency caused by the influx of Syrian refugees and the growing displacement within Iraq, and to make sure that European humanitarian aid is reaching the victims of the crisis. On her second visit to the country together with Sweden's Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt (18-19 August), she reaffirmed the European Union's commitment to continue supporting the humanitarian response in the country. Commissioner Georgieva emphasised the need to scale up this response as well as the capacity to deliver assistance to all people in need.
A humanitarian air bridge
In response to the rapidly deteriorating situation this summer, on 14 August the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated to facilitate and support the rapid deployment of in-kind assistance and expertise to Iraq. A humanitarian air bridge was set up to deliver relief items, logistics and other resources. Ten Member States have been delivering essential assistance through this humanitarian air bridge: either bilaterally or through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. These are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
They have provided urgently needed items such as tents, sleeping bags, blankets, kitchen cooking sets, food rations, vehicles, hygiene kits, power generators, and medical supplies. More than twenty flights carrying food and non-food items have arrived in Iraq in result of this coordination.
Mobilisation of humanitarian aid
The European Commission has gradually scaled up its financial assistance for this crisis as well. EU aid, reaching the most vulnerable without distinction of ethnicity or religion, has more than quadrupled since the beginning of the year, from €4 million to €17 million. The Commission is funding activities targeting the internally displaced and the refugees, including the provision of shelter, food, water and other life-saving assistance.
Altogether, the EU's humanitarian support - including that from the Commission and Member states - exceeds €40 million since the beginning of August.
The EU funding is supporting Iraq in three different humanitarian challenges: the internal sectarian conflict that has led to the displacement of over 2 million people; Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries and the arrival of almost 220 000 refugees from Syria.
This assistance, mobilised in response of the current crisis, adds to the nearly €145 million of humanitarian support that the Commission has given for Iraq since 2007 to cater for displaced Iraqi and Syrian refugees.
Presence on the ground
The Commission has strengthened its humanitarian presence in the country with the opening of a field office in Erbil. The field staff deployed by the Commission is actively working to bring timely assistance and is constantly monitoring the situation to provide a coordinated and quick response to the increasing number of people in need. As well as this, the ERCC has deployed a Liaison Officer and an Information Manager to Erbil in order to support the coordination and delivery of European in-kind assistance in the field.
Keeping hope alive: EU Children of Peace
The EU Children of Peace initiative was inspired by the Nobel Peace Prize received by the European Union in 2012. The initiative includes two projects in Iraq, providing basic education to refugee children, for a total value of €700 000. One of the projects is for a child friendly space and youth friendly space in the Domiz refugee camp. The other is providing primary education for 250 Syrian refugee children between the ages of 6 and 11 as well as psycho-social care and educational activities for 150 children between 3 and 18.
On-going EU Development Aid
The European Commission continues to support the country's long-term development, by tackling the roots of the current violence and pursuing structural stability.
For the period 2014-2020, around €78 million of development support will be made available to Iraq, as announced by EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs.
In spite of the challenging security environment, the funding will focus on strengthening the rule of law and respect of human rights, supporting capacity building in primary and secondary education and increasing access to sustainable energy sources.
EU projects will target the development of democratic institutions compliant with the Rule of Law and Human Rights principles and support access to national public education and to energy for the poor and for remote areas.
The design and implementation of these projects will be adapted to the developments in the security situation.
For more information
The European Commission's humanitarian aid and civil protection: