• Crisis Severity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Impact ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Humanitarian Conditions ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Complexity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Access Constraints ?
    No constraints
    Extreme constraints

Key figures

  • 6,544,000 People in Need [?]
  • 1,665,000 IDPs [?]
  • 4,267,000 IDP Returnees [?]
  • 253,000 Syrian Refugees [?]



People are returning home after several years of conflict and displacement, but the Iraqi government still faces significant challenges to ensure safety and stability, functioning infrastructure, and access to basic services and job opportunities. ?Relations with the autonomous Kurdish Region of Iraq (KR-I), which voted for independence in September 2017, remain fragile.?

Some 10,000-15,000 Islamic State (IS) militants are believed to remain in Hamrin Mountains, Kirkuk governorate, Mosul, the southern part of Ninewa governorate, and the desert areas of Anbar governorate. ?

Almost 65% of all people in need are concentrated in Anbar, Ninewa, and Salah al-Din governorates. ?Large scale displacement persists despite the expulsion of IS from Iraqi territory. In December 2017. Return movements slowed in 2018 as returnees often face damaged housing, insecurity, and lack basic services and livelihood opportunities. ?Efforts to reduce areas extensively contaminated with explosive remnants of war are ongoing, however, progress is very slow. ?Additionally, Iraq hosts almost 300,000 refugees and asylum seekers, including 250,000 Syrian refugees, of whom 99% live in KR-I. 69% of all Syrian refugees in Iraq are women and children. ?

The humanitarian crisis is compounded by reoccurring, countrywide natural disasters, such as floods and droughts. INFORM measures Iraq’s risk of humanitarian crisis and disaster to be very high, at 7.2/10. Hazard and exposure, as well as lack of coping capacity, are of particular concern, at 8.6/10 and 7/10 rates. ?

Latest Developments


No recent significant humanitarian developments. The crisis is being monitored by our analysis team.

Humanitarian Access



Humanitarian movement within Iraq has reduced since September 2018 due to new tariffs and customs checks between Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and federal Iraq. Despite the abolishment of these new checkpoints in February 2019, remaining access challenges include the presence of different military authorities, and new documentation required by the federal government to import humanitarian goods tax-free. Multiple access constraints are reported in Ninewa and Kirkuk governorates. Movement is further impeded by insecurity related to Islamic State (IS) activities and unexploded ordnance, especially in and around Mosul. Recurring floods, especially in northern governorates, and poor road infrastructure mark significant physical constraints. Iraqi authorities are reportedly interfering with humanitarian activities in instances where aid and services are provided to people associated with or accused of having IS ties.

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Heightened tensions between Iran and US and their allies spark conflict between regional proxies in the Middle East leading to new humanitarian needs in the region

Latest update: 17/07/2019


Highly unlikely Somewhat likely Highly likely


Very low Moderate Major

A series of events have raised fears of an escalation of proxy conflict between the US, Iran and their allies in the Middle East. Countries particularly at risk of being affected are Iraq and Yemen as well as, to a smaller extent, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iran itself.

Attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf in recent weeks have provoked threatening rhetoric between the US and Iran.? The US blamed the incidents on Iran and deployed 2,500 troops, an aircraft carrier and bomber planes to the Middle East to counter “Iranian threats”. ? The US also recently tightened economic sanctions on Iran and labelled the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s elite military force, as a “foreign terrorist organisation”. ?  Iran denied involvement in the attacks but stated it will retaliate against aggression towards its interests.? The Special Forces unit of the IRGC reportedly called on allied militias to prepare for a proxy conflict.?

Relations between Iran and the US have deteriorated significantly over the last year since the Trump administration withdrew from a nuclear deal between Iran and seven world powers, including the US and EU.? Iran recently stopped complying with parts of the nuclear agreement in attempt to bargain European support against the sanctions, fueling existing tensions. ?

Neither country is interested in direct military confrontation. The US may be increasing economic and military pressure to suppress Iran’s growing regional influence and to leverage a new nuclear agreement, more aligned to its own terms. However, lack of diplomacy amid heightened tensions may result in a miscalculation possibly leading to an accidental escalation of conflict. Conflict would most likely remain small-scale and concentrated in areas with a large presence of Iranian proxies.

Iraq and Yemen are the most vulnerable to an escalation. In Iraq, the US and Iran have been vying for influence following the defeat of the Islamic State. Iraq has a large presence of Iran-backed Shia militias and the US has some 5,000 troops stationed in the country, raising the risk of a local confrontation. Regional actors are often trying to frame Yemen's conflict, which is predominantly based on local grievances, as part of the broader Saudi-Iranian rivalry. A recent upsurge in attacks from the Iran-backed Houthis on targets in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have raised tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, increasing the risk of retaliatory attacks and escalation in Yemen.


An escalation of proxy-conflict between the US and Iran and their allies in the Middle East could potentially have a far-reaching impact. However, more likely, the impact would remain localised and mainly affect areas with large presence of Iranian proxies.

A conflict between US forces and Iranian proxies in Iraq would impact a population already fatigued by war. Some 6.7 million people are in need of assistance. Particularly vulnerable are the 1.7 million IDP’s and 4.2 million IDP returnees in Iraq. New conflict would likely exacerbate their needs and trigger new internal displacement. Past conflict and political instability have strained basic health and WASH services. An outbreak of violence between the US and Iranian backed militias could disrupt gas, electricity and food supplies as Iraq heavily relies on imports from Iran. ?

In case of an escalation of conflict in Yemen, existing humanitarian needs, including food security, health and WASH would likely worsen. Retaliatory attacks would likely cause an increase in civilian casualties. In the past Saudi Arabia, which has warships positioned in the red sea and the Gulf of Aden, has blocked imports of goods, including aid supplies. An escalation could trigger a new naval blockade hindering humanitarian access. 

Involvement in an escalation of proxy conflict would further harm Iran’s economy. Large parts of Iran were hit by flash floods in April and March affecting over 40 million people, 2 million of who remain in need of assistance. Increased needs and growing political and socio-economic frustrations among the population could lead to a new wave of protests if Iran were to engage in a new conflict. ?

This risk was identified in the June Quarterly Risk Report.

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Key Priorities


Health services are severely underequipped and understaffed and 5.54 million people are in need of health assistance. Psychosocial support is needed, especially among IDPs. ?

Protection is a major concern with 4.52 million people in need of protection assistance. Protection needs are particularly high in Anbar, Diyala, Ninewa, and Salah al-Din governorate. Explosive remnants of war are a particular safety risk.? Iraqis with a perceived affiliation with extremist groups are often denied civil documentation, are hindered to return or arrested and detained. ?

Education: Children affected by conflict have limited access to education. In total, 2.56 million people are in need of education, 60% of whom are returnees. The quality of teaching is undermined as qualified teachers are lacking and more than 50% of the existing schools are in need of rehabilitation and reconstruction. ?

Information Gaps and Needs

  • The tracking of IDPs that became refugees and the numbers of refugee returnees is lacking. Their needs and their whereabouts remain mostly unknown. 
  • Different delineations of administrative borders between central and regional governments (especially the KR-I) impacts on the accuracy of displacement tracking.
  • The number of IS fighters currently in Iraq is unknown and more recent estimates are lacking. 

Field Fires


Since early May, more than 320 separate fire incidents from 8 May to 29 June have destroyed at least 46,4 sq km of agricultural crops. 250 districts across 12 governorates are affected, with most area burned in Ninewah and Salah al-Din governorate, especially in disputed territories. Returnees in these areas and remote Yezidi communities are most affected by a complete loss of their annual harvest as their vulnerabilities after years of conflict are very high. The fires are ongoing. IS claimed responsibility for setting wheat and barley crops on fire as civilians refused to pay taxes to them. Some observers believe that fires were intentionally lit to target returnees or hinder IDPs from returning. Other sources are lightning storms, explosive war remnants, and poorly insulated electricity supplies. After above-average rainfall yielding crop growth, the current extremely hot and dry conditions increase the risk of fires spreading.
Information on the exact area affected is conflicting. Furthermore, the negative impact on farmers, including returnees and planned returns, is yet to be determined by humanitarian partners. Heightened needs for assistance in food, livelihoods, and water supply are expected.?