District Amedi, Village Bamerni. Irak (c) Guillaume Pinon


1.3 million

internally displaced people

4.1 million

people in need of humanitarian assistance

2.4 million

people in Iraq without access to health services

The tragedy of war in Iraq: humanitarian emergency in Iraq

The figures speak for themselves: the need for humanitarian action in Iraq is non-negotiable.


Crucial humanitarian assistance in Iraq

Iraq is a country marked by years of conflict. Although it is gradually emerging from the crisis stage, the country is still extremely fragile and is facing multiple political, economic, social and security challenges. Since the beginning of the conflict with Islamic State in 2014, Iraq has been the scene of violent events which have forced millions of people to become internally displaced in the country. The majority have sought refuge in Kurdistan and neighbouring regions. In 2017, military operations succeeded in liberating the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.

In Iraq, an extensive humanitarian mission should combine:

  • medical assistance
  • humanitarian action aimed at the most vulnerable groups in Iraq
  • large-scale fundraising through a “Donate to Iraq” campaign


A vital humanitarian mission for refugees in Iraq

In Iraq, around 1.3 million people are still internally displaced (of the six million people displaced at the height of the conflict with Islamic State). Of these, 70% have been displaced for over five years. There are many factors preventing these people from returning to their home regions, including trauma linked to the abuses perpetrated by Islamic State, community tensions, concern about war debris remaining in the area, homes that have been damaged or destroyed, the lack of services available, especially healthcare and education, and the lack of means of subsistence.

One million displaced people living outside the camp system

These factors apply particularly to the Yazidi community of Sinjar, in Nineveh Governorate. Targeted humanitarian assistance has been rolled out in Iraq to help this traumatised community. In October 2020, the government accelerated the process of closing the camps for displaced people. In January 2021, it was estimated that 45,000 people had had to leave 14 camps in Iraq, joining the one million displaced people living outside the camp system. In the absence of sustainable rehousing options, the majority found emergency solutions and 30% of them are now experiencing secondary displacement.

While the overall number of people in need of humanitarian assistance is similar to what it was in 2019, the number of those with acute needs rose by 38% in 2020, especially outside the camps and in places of return. This increase is in part due to the Covid-19 crisis.


The need for medical assistance in Iraq

People directly exposed to the conflict, those who were internally displaced, refugees from Syria and host communities are all direct or indirect victims of this conflict.

There is a desperate need for healthcare in the areas most affected by the conflict (primarily Nineveh, Anbar, Salah Al-Din and Kirkuk Governorates). The lack of infrastructure, the shortage of healthcare workers and the damage caused by the violence still represent major barriers to access to care for the most vulnerable.

In Iraq, large-scale medical assistance needs to be rolled out to support healthcare staff and victims, both direct and indirect.


Overlapping humanitarian emergencies in Iraq

In many regions access to healthcare is compromised by the unstable security situation. Where services are available, health centres are overcrowded and overwhelmed by the scarcity of resources (healthcare staff, medical supplies and equipment). Whole neighbourhoods have not yet been rebuilt, essential services in some regions are inadequate and poor hygiene conditions contribute to serious public health problems and the spread of disease. In a country where the healthcare system was already struggling to cope, the fragile situation has been exacerbated by the sudden changes to the global humanitarian context as a result of Covid-19. 

The main needs in terms of health are the prevention of communicable diseases, sexual and reproductive healthcare, care for elderly people with chronic conditions, mental healthcare and the prevention of and response to gender-based violence. A great deal remains to be done but there is hope.

Our response to the refugee crisis in Iraq

In response to the humanitarian emergency in Iraq and to the multiple risks faced by local communities, MdM has put in place a humanitarian action plan to address a number of underlying issues.


Providing care through a team composed of local staff

Médecins du Monde works at the health centre in the Chamishko camp, the largest camp for internally displaced people in the Dohuk region in Iraqi Kurdistan. We provide a sustainable humanitarian response to the health needs of the camp’s near 27,000 residents. In Nineveh and Kirkuk Governorates, Médecins du Monde supports local health centres with free-of-charge essential medicines and medical supplies, logistics support and infrastructure refurbishment, as well as capacity-building for local healthcare staff.


Quelling the violence, supporting those most in need – key principles of humanitarian action in Iraq

In Iraq, MdM also provides mental health and psychosocial support services (individual sessions and group activities) and refers serious cases to specialist services. In 2020, MdM prepared a response to the needs arising from gender-based violence (GBV) which were exacerbated by the pandemic and the restrictions imposed.

As part of the humanitarian emergency, support for the most vulnerable in accessing good healthcare services (primary healthcare, sexual and reproductive healthcare and mental healthcare) is a central element in the challenge of resettling these communities which have been severely affected by the Iraq conflict.



In 2020

The humanitarian assistance provided by Médecins du Monde in Iraq facilitated:

  • 31,194 primary health consultations at health centres
  • 261 individual consultations and 3,108 group sessions for mental health and psychosocial support
  • 5,741 sexual and reproductive health consultations
  • awareness-raising sessions on Covid-19 protection and prevention measures for 88,196 people.


Medical consultation in Zakho camp  © Guillaume Pinon
Medical consultation in Zakho camp © Guillaume Pinon

Médecins du Monde’s role in restoring the public health system in Iraq

Médecins du Monde has been implementing humanitarian programmes in Iraq since the 1990s. Our organisation seeks to improve access to good quality health services for those who have been affected by the conflict, whether they are displaced people or host communities.

En 2018, Médecins du Monde redirected its activities towards more sustainable support for local healthcare providers and the Iraqi health authorities by making the transition from mobile healthcare provision to increased support for existing local healthcare providers and facilities. Médecins du Monde continued this transition in 2020 by seeking to support existing health structures, especially in the response to the Covid-19 crisis in primary healthcare centres and communities.

As part of this transition process, our NGO is also supporting the integration into primary healthcare centres of mental health and psychosocial support services and services for survivors of gender-based violence. A humanitarian mission delivered in partnership with Iraqis to ensure its sustainability.



our institutional support

Le ministère des Affaires étrangères allemand (AAHH) soutient Médecins du Monde
Second Gulf War.
Surgical missions, treatment of sick children, training for healthcare staff.
Establishment of paediatric post-operative care units in four hospitals in Baghdad, Basra and Mosul.
Emergency support for healthcare facilities during the war.
Médecins du Monde leaves the country for security reasons.
Programmes to improve emergency care and treatment.
Médecins du Monde leaves the country again for security reasons.
Emergency assistance for displaced people in Iraq.
Involvement continues with communities in Kirkuk and Nineveh Governorates.
MdM prepared a response to the needs arising from gender-based violence (GBV) which were exacerbated by the pandemic and the restrictions imposed.

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