More help needed for Yazidis struggling to rebuild in Sinjar: IOM Iraq
17 July 2018
Hardan, Iraq, 17 July 2018 - As millions of Iraqi returnees grapple with post-conflict realities in areas devastated by war, the UN Migration Agency (IOM) has provided more than 600 Yazidi families with non-food items in villages around the town of Sinjar, about 120 km west of Mosul.
IOM distributed essential household items such as mattresses, blankets, cooking stoves, hygiene kits, rechargeable lights and fans with the financial support of the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance.
For the first time since the end of the conflict, IOM last week was able to access Hardan, a village located about 30 km east of Sinjar town. The local Mukhtar (community leader) of Hardan, Qolo Qasem Elyas, explained that about one fifth of families have returned to the village.
“More than 300 families, around 2,100 individuals, used to live in Hardan but to date only about 60 families have returned,” said Elyas. “On 3 August 2014, when ISIL militants attacked and overran Sinjar district, including Hardan, 70 people were killed and 376 kidnapped, many of whom are still missing.”
ISIL executed hundreds of Yazidi men and enslaved thousands of women and children. Escaping widespread violence in 2014, hundreds of thousands of Yazidis and other minorities from the district fled to Mount Sinjar.
Today, thousands of people are still too afraid to leave the mountain, preferring living in tents on Sinjar’s plateau, rather than returning to their villages.
Rebuilding their lives has brought immense challenges for the trickle of families who chose to return. Many have nothing at all; their savings have been depleted, their homes looted and destroyed, and their livelihoods, wiped out.
Where they are available, essential services in these villages are only partially functioning, and the area remains heavily contaminated with the explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices. Communities are often a fraction of what they once were and, as people have begun to return, the absence of thousands of family members is palpable.
The Mukhtar of Hardan village explained that neither the school nor the health clinic are functional because the community has no piped water due to infrastructure damage.
Families who invited IOM staff into their homes said that there is little support available to help them cope with their psychological and physical trauma, and they expressed great anxiety about the future.
Over the coming months, IOM will help to improve conditions across multiple sectors in communities of return, repairing essential infrastructure, such as the public water network, supporting the local government to deliver healthcare and other essential services, and facilitating access to livelihoods through cash-for-work projects.
“IOM is providing critical humanitarian assistance to the population in Sinjar, and we expect to scale up this assistance soon,” said IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Gerard Waite. “After more than three and a half years in exile, Yazidis deserve the chance to be able to return and re-establish their lives and communities. Given the scale of damage, much support is needed.”
According to IOM Iraq’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), in the year since the area was fully retaken from ISIL, most Yazidi families remain unable to return to Sinjar town and surrounding villages; of the 52,158 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have returned to Sinjar district, less than one fifth have returned to areas south of Mount Sinjar.