Droughts displacing families across Iraq: IOM tracking

    28 Dec 2021

    Thousands of families across Iraq continue to be displaced from their homes due to drought, tracking updates on climate-induced displacement show, painting a stark picture of the increasingly dire consequences of climate breakdown on the population and particularly the agricultural community, Rudaw states.

    At least 3,334 families remain displaced as a result of drought conditions which reached record levels this summer in Baaj and Hatra districts of Nineveh province and across five further governorates in the south of Iraq, according to research from the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) in Iraq.

    A lack of ability to rely on the land for income and stability has meant that the heating environment is forcing thousands to move, with DTM data analysing the displacement of Iraqis from Ninevah province suggesting that the trend of migrating to more urban areas, such as Mosul – and cities in the Kurdistan Region such as Dohuk and Erbil – is set to continue. 

    As of 15 November 2021, 303 families are displaced from locations in Baaj and Hatra districts because of low rainfall impacting the ability of households to provide for their livestock, the report states. Although an increase in rainfall in October reduced the number of families displaced from drought-affected locations in comparison with figures earlier this summer, hundreds who migrated towards northern parts of Iraq have not returned.

    Over 3,000 families continue to be displaced due to drought and reduced water flow across the five southern governorates monitored by DTM since February 2019. Dhi Qar governorate hosts the largest number of families (1,110) experiencing climate-induced displacement from the subsequent strain on agriculture, followed by Maysan (728) and Karbala governorates (339).

    Despite four years having passed since Islamic State (ISIS) was declared territorially defeated in the country, the IOM estimates that around 1.2 million Iraqis are internally displaced and, as their tracking shows, the situation of prolonged displacement among over a million Iraqis is not only linked to those who fled direct terror.

    This summer, aid agencies in Iraq and Syria issued a warning that more than 12 million people in both countries are losing access to water, food, and electricity because of a severe water crisis, and according to the United Nations, only 3.5 percent of Iraq’s farmlands are watered with the irrigation systems required to irrigate dried fields and guarantee sufficient and sustainable livelihoods in rural areas. 

    Abu Nzar, a rural farmer in Iraq’s southern province of Maysan, told Rudaw earlier this year that nearby farmers had abandoned their fields to move to the city. “If this water scarcity is not resolved, we too will be forced to leave because farming these lands without a local water source costs too much,” he said.

    As of November 2021, the DTM states, no families displaced by drought were recorded in Erbil.

    In October, IOM Iraq published a separate report on climate-induced migration to the southern city of Basra, where the water crisis toppled the Iraqi government in 2018, analysing the impact of forced migration due to environmental degradation in urban areas.

    The report recommended improving the ability of cities such as Basra to host the increasing numbers of Iraqis moving to urban areas, and stressed the need to diversify the economic opportunities available to those who are forced to migrate because of environmental collapse.

    Another recent study on water management in southern Iraq, published by the London School of Economics (LSE), is similarly dire about the impact of high population growth in Iraq compared to reducing supply flows and calls for the Basra governorate to get to grips with management of its neglected public water network infrastructure.

    A report by Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources last week predicted that unless urgent action is taken to combat both declining water levels and climate change, Iraq’s two main rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris, will be entirely dry by 2040, as they made plans to take Iran to court over the country’s water policy towards Iraq.

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