In particular, the impact of the humanitarian crisis has had negative repercussions on the economic security of the region. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is in a financial squeeze and is finding it difficult to guarantee access to quality education, electricity, food, health, water and sanitation and other basic services to not only internally displaced persons (IDPs) from other governorates in Iraq and Syrian refugees, but to citizens of the Kurdistan Region as well.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) of the more than 3.1 million Iraqi IDPs, 1.7 million have sought refuge in the Kurdistan Region. The majority of Iraqi IDPs living in the Kurdistan Region are originally from three Iraqi governorates: Anbar (1.33 million displaced); Niniwa (1.01 million people displaced); and Salahaddin (0.41 million people displaced). The Kurdistan Region is also host to approximately 250,000 Syrian refugees, who mostly live in camps. The Kurdistan Region has experienced a 28% to 30% increase in the population due to the combined IDP and refugee communities.
In the governorates of Slemani and Erbil, around 82% of the IDPs live in rented houses, followed by vulnerable locations (7%), IDP camps (6%) and host families (4%). Approximately 60% of the total refugee and IDP population reside in Duhok governorate where the situation is more precarious with 35% of the displaced people living in IDP camps, 29% in vulnerable locations, 29% in rented accommodations and 8% in host families. The KRG has built 26 camps for IDPs and has committed to funding three out of the 26 camps.
The Kurdistan Region has experienced a 28% to 30% increase in the population due to the combined IDP and refugee communities.
Many IDPs and refugees did not expect to remain displaced for so long and have exhausted their personal reserves (of financial, human and social capital). They have gradually become fully dependent on assistance from the KRG and international donor community. Therefore, it is crucial that the KRG, in partnership with the international humanitarian community, adopt and implement a long-term approach to administering services such as access to quality education, health, housing, and basic services particularly since many IDPs and refugees will not return to the governorates they fled from in the near future and some may remain displaced indefinitely.
Coupled with the humanitarian emergency and the current economic crisis, the KRG is under pressure to ensure that its economy does not collapse. Since early 2014, the Iraqi central government has withheld the portion of the federal budget allocated to the KRG, due to a political stalemate between Baghdad and Erbil. This withholding of funds has severely paralyzed the public sector. The KRG is overburdened and unable to pay salaries on a consistent basis. The Ministry of Natural Resources borrowed approximately $1.5 billion from the domestic private sector and another $1.5 billion from international companies and suppliers by selling its future oil output to keep the economy afloat and to pay the salaries of civil servants. In 2014, the poverty rate more than doubled and unemployment, especially among IDPs and refugees living off-camp, as well as young Kurds, increased significantly.
In an environment of constrained resources due to the current economic and humanitarian crisis, the international private sector has a moral obligation to ensure economic security is not severely threatened. Now more than ever, it is crucial that the international private sector provide quality jobs with fair wages, create opportunities for employees to gain further professional development, offer internships and assistantships for students in the KRG. Empowering individuals and households, social integration and economic independence of family units will contribute to the resilience of the KRG society in times of peace and war.