The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has started tracking Iraqis displaced by climate change. They have found the phenomena is increasing with each passing month. The group tried to deduce the main causes of this new dilemma Iraq is facing.
From January 2016 to October 2022 the IOM recorded 55,290 displaced in central and southern Iraq due to environmental changes. From 2021 to December 2022 26,160 people were displaced which was an 803% increase.
In a study covering August to October 2022 in 9 provinces IOM found that people that relied upon land and water for their income were affected the most. The worst areas are those facing multiple changes at the same time. That includes issues like drought, sand and dust storms, water salinity, soil degradation and less rainfall.
On top of that services are very poor in Iraq. Water management in Iraq is ineffective, water infrastructure is broken and inefficient, and there is diversion of water and damning. Out of the 9 provinces in the IOM study Dhi Qar reported the worst access to services. That means the government is providing little support to these locations and the people suffering.
The IOM discovered that the districts with the highest levels of climate displacement were in Maysan and Dhi Qar. In Qalat Salah, Maysan 50% of the population, 1,728 families have been displaced. In Dhi Qar’s Al-Rifai 3 out of 5 households have left for a total of 1,321 families. That’s followed by Nasiriya also in Dhi Qar where 20% of households have been displaced. There are 10 locations in Dhi Qar that have been completely abandoned due to the environment.
IOM is a good source for facts on the ground in Iraq. It is also the only group tracking the number of displaced due to the climate. Because it works with the Iraqi government it can’t be too critical however. That means it leaves out the biggest problem which is that the Iraqi elite don’t care about this issue. It does not affect them because of their wealth and power. They are therefore not providing any meaningful resources to address the issue even though it is the greatest challenge facing the country right now.
International Organization for Migration, “Drivers Of Climate-Induced Displacement In Iraq, Climate Vulnerability Assessment,” October 2023