CRS in Iraq

CRS Work in Iraq

A nation of 27 million people, Iraq is a country overwhelmed by war and sectarian violence. Random bombings, killings and kidnappings are becoming tragically commonplace. Unemployment is high and poverty is rampant. Many families displaced from their homes — more than 2 million people within Iraq — also left behind all of their belongings. Without help, they face a daily life without food, shelter, medical care or income. Escalating security risks prompted Catholic Relief Services to withdraw staff from Iraq in 2004. But our work in the country continues today with help from partners on the ground, including Caritas Iraq, who deliver emergency humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable families of all faiths.

Well Baby Program

The Well Baby program supports vulnerable children and mothers with improved health, nutrition and education to reduce disease and mortality rates in the difficult emergency environment of Iraq. The absence of adequate medical facilities and care, and lack of clean water and electricity are all major contributors to infant malnourishment and disease. CRS' funding supports Caritas Iraq's efforts to provide 120,000 children and 24,000 mothers with supplementary nutritional foods, health and hygiene awareness training, medical support (vaccines, neonatal monitoring and care), and community support systems.

Humanitarian Aid

Humanitarian aid serves extremely vulnerable Iraqis — including the elderly, disabled, and orphaned children — with food, medical care, and tuition and income assistance. CRS funds facilitate the distribution of food baskets that offer culturally appropriate foods not usually available in typical government food rations. These distributions, which include vegetable oil, tomato paste, milk and cheese, occur every two to three months and provide families with nutritious supplements to their sparse daily diet. Additionally, vulnerable families receive health care, education and other social services. This program serves 8,400 families in Kirkuk, Basrah and Baghdad.

Emergency Aid for Displaced Families

Increased sectarian conflict and targeted violence has forced more than 4 million Iraqis to leave their homes and neighborhoods. Two million people fled to other countries, most to Syria and Jordan. But more than 2 million remain within Iraq, displaced from their homes and, often, without any possessions. Every month, upwards of 60,000 more people follow suit. CRS funding helps provide displaced families with food, mattresses, blankets, medical care, rent, tuition assistance and basic job training. This program supports 2,000 displaced families in the Nineveh plains, in border areas near Syria and Turkey and in places along the road from Mosul to Irbil. Assistance is largely implemented through Iraqi volunteers, and with support of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society.


The goal of the Caritas peacebuilding program is to spread the culture of peace among people in Iraq so that they can live in harmony. CRS funds increase the capacity of peacebuilders in Iraq to promote reconciliation and conflict mitigation. Caritas staff participates in training and other activities that foster a larger understanding of reconciliation, respect, and social behavior; resolving conflict; and the concept of justice in humanitarian service.

Volunteer Program

The Caritas Iraq volunteer program provides a pool of trained and experienced Iraqis who contribute their time to provide humanitarian aid and social assistance. Caritas Iraq uses volunteers in most program activities, and they play an important role in spreading the example of community service, solidarity and compassion. CRS funds support staff training and help increase the pool of volunteers for all Caritas programs throughout Iraq. Volunteer programs are developing the capacity of 200 volunteers, providing them with practical exposure to humanitarian and social-service programming through specialized training sessions.

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