CRS in Iraq

Since January 2014, escalating violence in northern and central Iraq has caused devastation and mass displacement of Iraqis and further displacement of Syrian refugees. The so-called Islamic State (IS) has taken control of large swaths of the country and continues to threaten religious minorities, -- including Christians, Shia Muslims, Yazidis and Turkmen -- who have been singled out for attack. In addition to nearly a million internally displaced persons from other parts of Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan is host to approximately 235,000 Syrian refugees.

In total, approximately 5.2 million people in all parts of the country are believed to be in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Nearly half of them are children.

The influx of displaced families to Iraqi Kurdistan has put a significant strain on the local communities. More than 80 percent of the displaced are living outside of organized camps, with host families or in makeshift or unfinished dwellings. 

With offices in Dohuk, Erbil, and Kirkuk, CRS and Caritas Iraq are jointly helping nearly 88,000 uprooted people with critical living supplies, relief items, shelter improvements, water and sanitation, and education support for vulnerable children. 

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People Served: 181,122

Population: 37,056,169 (July 2015 est.)

Size: 438,317 sq km; slightly more than three times the size of New York state

CRS' History in Iraq

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) began assisting Iraqi war victims immediately after the Gulf War in 1991. In 1999, following international sanctions and the call of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, CRS partnered with Caritas Iraq to reinitiate humanitarian programs addressing the growing needs of the Iraqi population.

CRS’ humanitarian support to the country continues to be ongoing, with our efforts ramping up following the escalation of violence in January of 2014, which has uprooted an estimated 3 million people. Many families describe fleeing at a moment’s notice after learning that the Islamic State (IS) was nearing their cities and towns. Civilians of all ethnic and religious backgrounds have been targeted and displaced, including minority communities such as Yazidis, Christians and Turkmen, as well as Shiites and Sunnis. In addition to the massive number of internally displaced Iraqis, the country is hosting some 230,000 refugees from Syria who have sought help, mainly in the northern Kurdistan region. Families in desperate need continue to arrive, straining local resources. 

Within the last year, CRS and Caritas Iraq have provided support to nearly 88,000 individuals.  This includes critical household items for winter; food assistance; safe shelter; water and sanitation; and child support centers that provide traumatized children with education, play and care.