UNOPS

01/11/2016

Helpline responds to escalating crisis in Iraq

An hour away from Mosul, a small team is providing support to people displaced by violence, while preparing for the predicted influx of up to a million more people.

They work in the Iraq IDP Information Centre – a humanitarian helpline – and field calls from people who have been forced to leave their homes and seek shelter.

"People are looking for escape routes. Some have fled and are stranded. Many are searching for lost family members. We are asked how to access humanitarian aid – food, healthcare, child protection. Essentially calls can be on any topic," explained UNOPS Project Manager Charlotte Lancaster.​

Iraq is home to the world's third-largest population of internally displaced people.

The project began last year, as a way to provide a connection between the vast range of aid organizations operating on the ground and the people they seek to help.

But a recent surge in violence in northern Iraq has seen focus shift to those who could be driven from their homes in the coming weeks and months.

"We're expecting displacement to happen in four directions. Of course, when people are on the move, they are extremely vulnerable. From our side, what we do next must be defined by needs on the ground," Lancaster added.

"Democratizing access to information is one of the most important things we can do to serve populations in crisis" said UNOPS chief Grete Faremo.

"Connecting displaced Iraqis to the help they need is key to the humanitarian response. It's essential that projects like this help those fleeing violence in northern Iraq," Ms. Faremo added.

Project details:

  • Based in Erbil, the Iraq Internally Displaced Persons Information Centre is one of the largest UN inter-agency project of its kind, helping provide information on humanitarian assistance to displaced Iraqis.
  • The Iraq IDP Information Centre is implemented by UNOPS on behalf of partners, including UNHCR, WFP, WHO, OCHA and the Office of the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq.
  • The helpline currently receives 300-400 calls a day from displaced Iraqis.
  • In total, it has handled more than 40,000 calls, providing information on assistance to more than 240,000 people (figure based on the average family size of six people).
  • The helpline does not provide direct assistance to callers. It gives people information on assistance, and it helps improve the humanitarian response by providing feedback to aid agencies on the urgent needs of the IDP community.
  • UNOPS is working with government authorities, as well as three telephone companies—Korek Telecom, Asiacell Telecom and Zain— to ensure a reliable and functioning service across Iraq, even in areas not currently under government control. Calls are free. 
  • Donations are being sought to support the call centre. To find out how you can support this important project, please visit: engage.unops.org