About 250 households have returned to Hembes villages since 2015.
On a recent visit to Diyala, Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano, met with returnees living in Hembes village in Muqdadiya. About 250 households have returned to Hembes villages since 2015. Several households arrived from Al-Wand and Qaratoo IDP camps after camp closures took place at the end of 2020.
Samahir Muhammed Attiya (47) is one of them. She and her three sons lived in Qaratoo IDP camp for six years, before returning to Hembes village in August 2020. There they live with Samahir’s parents, in a house that has been severely damaged and partly burnt during the war. UNHCR and Mercy Hands have provided some support to winterize the damaged home. The family received 370,000 IQD (USD$250) per month from the Government’s social security programme, but this is not sufficient to meet needs, so sometimes they sometimes receive additional help from the community. Samahir used to support her family by sewing, but she had to sell her sewing machine during a medical emergency, to pay for the medical treatment of her 9-year old son. He has limited vision and cannot attend school. His older brother has a disability and cannot attend school either. Samahir would like to find a way to become financially independent again. She contends that if she could just resume her sewing business and know her sons would be cared for, she would be able to sustain herself and her family and repair the damaged home.
Essa Dhahir Muhammed (49) used to be a farmer, with successful farm for citrus fruit and dates. In 2014, he was displaced from Hembes by the conflict, leaving his house and farm behind. He lived in Al-Wand IDP camp with his wife and five daughters. In August 2020, when the camps closed, they returned to Hembes, where they found their home demolished, and missing its roof. His lemon trees and date palms had died because of the drought and lack of irrigation. Essa’s brother accommodated the family in his house, which is also partly damaged, but this has led to a crowded living situation which is not sustainable in the long term. Essa hopes to restore his farm and rebuild his house. His younger daughters were born in an IDP camp and have never had a home of their own.
Muqdadiya district in Diyala governorate had 155,000 inhabitants in 2014, almost half of whom were displaced during the conflict with ISIL. As of December 2020, according to the IOM-DTM Return Index, almost 60,000 individuals returned to Muqdadiya, while around 20,000 are still displaced in other districts of Diyala and Sulaymaniyah. Over half of those who returned live in locations lacking basic services, livelihoods or security, and about 9,000 in critical shelter.
Since September 2020, about 1,000 new families have returned to the villages north of Muqdadiya; many took the trip because the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) they were living in had closed. Humanitarian partners (Oxfam, DRC, IOM, Save the Children, UNHCR and Mercy Hands) distributed urgently needed core relief items for winterization, hygiene kits, and cash for food and basic needs. Initial rehabilitation of water plants and networks by UNHCR and Oxfam have improved access to drinking water. However, humanitarian needs remain, and families require additional support if they are going to reach durable solutions.