CRS in Iraq

Pope Francis has chosen to visit Iraq as his first trip since the COVID-19 pandemic began. His visit comes at a time when Iraq is struggling to recover from violence. More than 4 million Iraqis have returned home after years of conflict, and are picking up the pieces to rebuild their homes and lives.


Beginning in January 2014, violence in Iraq caused devastation and mass displacement of Iraqis. The Islamic State (IS) had taken control of large swaths of the country, threatening minorities, — including Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims, and Turkmen — who had been singled out for attack. Larger numbers of Sunni Muslims were later displaced. Throughout the crisis, an estimated 3.5 million Iraqis were displaced from their homes, putting a significant strain on communities and resources.

Following an intensive military operation, Iraqi and Kurdish forces regained territory from IS, including the city of Mosul. Today, with over 8 million people still in need, the number of returnees has surpassed the number of internally displaced people.

CRS and Caritas Iraq have served over 300,000 conflict-affected people in Iraq since 2014 with critical relief items and cash, shelter and sanitation, and education and emotional support for children. With offices in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul, Dohuk, and Erbil, CRS maintains robust, flexible emergency response capacity in Iraq to support families still living in displacement.

As locations stabilize and families are able to return home, CRS is scaling up its help for families rebuilding their lives. With support from CRS and Caritas Iraq, families are repairing their homes, restarting their livelihoods and accessing quality education for their children.


People Served: 181,122

Population: 39,192,111

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

Our Partners

Become a Partner

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.