Baghdad 30 March 2015 - Through the support of the Government of Japan, UN-Habitat launched a project in Iraq to support internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country to enhance self-reliance and improve their living conditions through provision of prefabricated durable shelters and basic services in Baghdad, Dohuk and Kerbala Governorates.

The Project Launching Ceremony was held in Baghdad on 29 March 2015, and chaired by Mr. Hamed Khalaf the Secretary General of the Iraqi Ministers Council. Mr. Salam al-Khafaji, Vice Minister of Displacement and Migration, opened the ceremony by expressing gratitude to the Government of Japan for supporting this important project, and the strong commitment of the Ministry as well as the Government of Iraq to provide full support to the project despite deteriorating security situation in Iraq.

Ms. Lise Grande, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and United Nations Resident Coordinator and the Humanitarian Coordinator, welcomed the guests and assured that the United Nations in Iraq is committed to work with the Government to support vulnerable people at risk. Ms. Grande also thanked the Government of Japan for the generous contribution to support humanitarian activities in Iraq that was announced last month and for the timely support to this innovative project that provides comprehensive support addressing all aspects of camp, including shelter, livelihood, health and education, to ensure that displaced people can live in dignity.

Mr. Kazuya Nashida, the Ambassador of Japan in Iraq, delivered a statement emphasizing the importance of shelter support to displaced persons. Mr. Nashida referred to two major earthquakes Japan had experienced in 1995 and 2011, which displaced numerous people in Japan, and stated that this project in Iraq applies lessons learned from Japan’s experience in supporting IDPs.

Rapid demographic changes brings about pressure on Iraqi cities

Mr. Dyfed Aubrey, Regional Director, UN-Habitat Regional Office for Arab States, also delivered a statement that highlighted the rapid demographic change and the severe pressure it poses on cities in Iraq. Mr. Aubrey emphasized the need to support communities as a whole, in collaboration with civil societies, local governments and private sectors, to ensure seamless transition from emergency assistance to long-term solutions and to prevent IDP camps becoming slums as seen in few cases in the region.

Mr. Erfan Ali, Head of UN-Habitat Iraq Programme, delivered a presentation on the agency’s IDPs shelter projects in Iraq. In his presentation, Mr. Ali provided an overview of the current situation in Iraq where violence triggered by the group that calls itself Islamic States (IS) has resulted in more than 2.5 million IDPs across the country leading to a complex humanitarian crisis, and explained how UN-Habitat, in partnership with other UN entities, has been providing not only short-term emergency response but also more durable and sustainable solutions to support IDPs based on mid- and long-term perspectives. Mr. Ali highlighted on the exerted efforts to design the new sites through the Japanese funding in Baghdad, Karbella and Duhok to establish three IDPs shelter compounds with total capacity of 1700 units in this stage within properly planed sites, provided with the needed infrastructure, services and livelihood initiatives after implementation.

Previously between 2004-2008, Japan had provided UN-Habitat Iraq with USD 42 million for the rehabilitation of community facilities and Infrastructure, housing & shelter, improvement of water supply and sanitation and construction and rehabilitation of education facilities. UN-Habitat is very pleased to renew its partnership in Iraq with Japan government under the new humanitarian project.