The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently reported that the number of displaced in Iraq climbed again from 3.3 million to 3.4 million. While cities like Tikrit have been touted as success stories of people going back to their homes, continued military operations are driving out more families.
The IOM counted 3,418,332 displaced in Iraq from January 1, 2014 to March 31, 2016. That was an increase from the 3,320,844 reported in late February. Anbar, 1,486,866 people, and Ninewa, 1,125,414, accounted for 76% of all the internal refugees in the country.
The cause of the increase was military operations in Salahaddin, Anbar and Ninewa. At the start of March several clearing operations were conducted in the Samarra, Tikrit, and Baiji districts. Then in the middle of that month the successful Hit campaign started in Anbar that forced around 30,000 people to leave the area. Then at the end of March the Makhmour offensive in Ninewa was launched displacing around 2,500. People were still leaving the Ramadi area as well as the security forces were driving the Islamic State out of its surrounding towns.
Things have not been all grim as people have started to go back to their home areas. In total 553,104 civilians went back to their districts. Salahaddin had the most with 262,074, followed by 131,766 in Ninewa, and 118,404 in Diyala. In Tikrit 90% of the city’s population has gone back. 71,000 people returned to the Ramadi area since March, months ahead of what local officials believed possible because of left over explosives from the Islamic State. The problem is that the number of people being forced out because of on going fighting outpaced the number of people going back.
The IOM warned that the continued movement of people was stretching the resources of it and other humanitarian groups. It and the United Nations are afraid that this crisis will only increase as the fight for Mosul approaches. That could lead to over one million people fleeing the fighting. The international community has continuously failed to meet the donation marks asked for by the U.N. That means the consequences of Mosul could completely overwhelm the aid agencies.
International Organization for Migration, “Displacement in Iraq Exceeds 3.4 Million: IOM,” 4/19/16