Providing Shelter in Urban Iraq: Where the Displaced Meet the Poor

A key characteristic of Iraq’s most recent wave of displacement, mostly internal but including refugees from Syria, is its urban nature. Of the 3.1 million internally displaced people in Iraq recorded since 2014, 78 percenthave flocked mainly into cities or their outlying areas around the country.

In situations of such major population movement, whether in Iraq or elsewhere, displaced households have almost always preferred to find a place of their own in cities and towns. After all, this opens up the prospect of greater opportunities for themselves, as well as connection with their extended family networks. Households typically make such a decision regardless of the hardship it may entail, including a lack of adequate housing or the risk it may place on peaceful co-existence with host communities.

Yet the responses by governments and humanitarian actors in urban areas have been piecemeal at best, often unsatisfactory to the displaced and host communities alike. In part this is due to the complexity of identifying vulnerable populations in an urban environment. But in part, the problem is also a failure to target the root causes of housing problems that are exacerbated by displacement.

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Social Inquiry