One in two families in drought-stricken Iraq need food assistance – Iraq


ERBIL – December 16 – The extent of drought suffering inflicted on Iraqi people this year is exposed in a new study by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

It shows that one in two families in drought-affected areas need food assistance because of the drought, while one in five does not have enough food for all family members.

Communities across Iraq have suffered damaging losses to their crops, livestock and income. Children eat less, and farmers and displaced populations are the hardest hit.

According to research from the NRC, which surveyed 2,800 households in drought-affected areas across the country:

  • 37% of wheat growers and 30% of barley growers suffered crop losses of at least 90% of the expected harvest,
  • 37% percent of households have lost livestock, sheep or goats in the past six months, mainly due to lack of water, inadequate nutrition or disease,
  • The average monthly income in six of the seven governorates surveyed fell below the monthly survival threshold.

Samira *, 46, returned from a trip to Mosul to cultivate her land with two of her five children, but has already seen her production decline. “Our production has declined due to a recent water shortage, which has also resulted in a drop in our income… I cannot afford the food for my family, so I borrow money from my families. relatives or I buy food on credit, ”she told NRC.

In recent years, drought conditions, rising temperatures and declining rainfall have reflected the growing threat of climate change in the country. Water flow from upstream countries has also declined.

“Our harvest fell due to the drought. Our land was thriving, but now it is losing value day by day and no one seems to care what the farmers are up against. Our land used to produce 20 tonnes per season, now it’s only 10 or 11 tonnes, ”said Osama, a 27-year-old farmer from Hawija.

Such extreme circumstances have forced people to leave their homes, exacerbating the displacement crisis in Iraq. Of those surveyed, 1 in 15 households told the NRC that a family member had migrated in the past 30 days in search of work and income. Many of them had been displaced at least once before, or had just returned home. Young people are particularly vulnerable because our research shows that 45% of people aged 15 to 24 have left their farming community to find jobs in cities, while 38% have lost their jobs.

The outlook for 2022 is worrying, with persistent water shortages and drought conditions likely to devastate the next farming season. This can increase families’ dependence on purchased water as well as poor hygiene practices, which could lead to epidemics. There are already signs of waves of displacement occurring amidst water scarcity, lost income and rising food prices within farming communities.

“Families tell us they need to borrow money to feed themselves amid soaring prices and falling savings. They say their only source of life is disappearing before their eyes. Their land is drying up and there is nothing they can do about it. This is all rooted in a water scarcity crisis, ”said Maithree Abeyrathna, NRC Iraq program manager.

“We want to see strong water management plans to support hard-hit communities and prevent future shocks, and these plans need to be informed by the farmers themselves. “

The NRC is also calling for international assistance to support pastoralists and provide drought tolerant irrigation systems and seeds to reduce crop failures and crop losses. Iraqi governments and the Kurdish regional government are encouraged to integrate climate change mitigation strategies into national job creation efforts and advocate for water sharing agreements to be respected by upstream countries in order to prepare for the future effects of climate change in Iraq and the persistent drought conditions.

* Name changed to protect identities

Facts and figures:

  • The NRC interviewed 2,806 households in Anbar, Basra, Duhok, Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salah Al-Din and Thi Qar governorates.
  • 300 internally displaced persons and 1,500 returnees were among those interviewed.
  • An additional survey was carried out among 100 food vendors and livestock traders, as well as 48 key informant interviews with community stakeholders and authorities, namely representatives of local authorities and employees of the Department of Agriculture or of the Department of Irrigation.
  • The NRC is responding by providing drought tolerant wheat seed varieties to more than 2,000 families in Kirkuk, Nineveh and Anbar governorates to help cope with crop losses and crop failures amid persistent drought. The NRC has also supported over 200 families with cash feed in Sinjar and Baaj.

Notes to Editors:

For media inquiries:

Ahmed Bayram, Media and Communication Advisor, Amman, [email protected], phone +962 7 9016 0147

NRC Oslo media team: E-mail: [email protected], phone: +4790562329


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