For the half million internally displaced persons residing in camps, settlements and transit centres across Ninewa governorate in Iraq, not knowing about the conditions in their areas of origin is a cause of great anxiety and a significant barrier to return and reintegration. To overcome this challenge, ACTED established information desks in Salamiyah IDP camps in 2018, with the support of the UNHCR.
The restoration of Iraqi government control in areas previous taken by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has allowed over 3.5 million Iraqis to return home since December 2017. However, specific information on the level of damage to houses, markets and basic infrastructures − as well as the presence of explosive remnants of war in these areas − remains scarce. Displaced people are thus unable to make informed decisions as to whether it is safe to attempt to reclaim their homes; as such, their status remains in limbo.
In 2018, in Salamiyah IDP camps of Ninewa governorate, ACTED, with the support of the UNHCR, established desks where residents can obtain accurate, up-to-date information about their hometowns. They can find out to what extent water and electricity provision has been restored, whether schools and hospitals have reopened and details of on-going demining operations.
ACTED uses a combination of interviews with community leaders and Rapid Overview of Areas of Return (ROAR) assessments, facilitated by REACH Initiative, to create a holistic and accurate picture of an area’s habitability. So far, these assessments have covered Ba ’aj, Sinjar and Telafar districts of the Ninewa governorate, representing the major areas of origin for IDPs residing in Salamiyah camps.
Jasim and Abdulkhadir escaped from attacks in Sinjar and Telafar and lived in Salamiyah camp with their family members since June 2017. Upon arrival, their main concerns were related to the security of their hometowns, the provision of basic services such as electricity and water and access to the employment. Both men stated they are now using ACTED’s information desks to defer their return until basic government services are restored and viable livelihoods opportunities to bring communities back to life are created. They also highlighted the importance of the continuous maintenance and expansion of the information desks as the core reference source to inform their safe returns.
Recognising the importance of these information desks, ACTED (with the support of the UNHCR) will continue ensuring that IDPs can make well-informed decisions for a safe, voluntary, and dignified journey home.
This objective is part of a one-year project funded by the UNHCR and implemented by ACTED. The project provides Camp Coordination and Camp Management implemented by ACTED in Salamiyah camps 1 and 2 camps hosting respectively 8,626 and 23,841 IDPs.
On average, 150 IDPs visit the information desk in Salamiyah 2 camp each week.