The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

Helping the hard-to-reach in Iraq

This article was published more than two years ago. Some information may no longer be accurate.

A UNOPS-supported small grants programme has provided financial and administrative support to Iraqi non-governmental organizations all over the country, allowing them to provide vital assistance to internally displaced people.

In Iraq, where the need is extreme but security is also a major concern, UN agencies, the Government and local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) often find it difficult to reach people in need, especially those in remote or insecure areas. Since 2014, an estimated 2.8 million Iraqis have been displaced as a result of the ongoing conflict between armed groups and members of the Iraqi and Kurdish armed forces. Internally displaced people often struggle to gain access to even the most basic services and are among the most vulnerable members of society.

The Quick Impact Grants Programme, designed and managed by UNOPS on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), resulted in almost $1 million of funds awarded to twenty-seven NGOs across Iraq in less than four months. The grant recipients were selected from among more than 300 applicants and received between $9,000 and $46,000 each. Areas with the highest concentration of displaced people, in the centre and south of the country, were prioritized in an effort to extend support to host communities who have shown exceptional hospitality and generosity.

A simple, three-page-long application form was distributed in Arabic and Kurdish, and 'open forum' events were held to walk local actors through the application process and answer their questions. UNOPS then oversaw the distribution and monitoring of grants, and also provided technical assistance to the grantees where needed.

By allowing local organizations to design and implement their own projects, vital aid and assistance can reach those who need it more quickly. In this instance, Iraqi citizens were able to take the lead in deciding what was needed, an approach that builds capacity, engages the local community and promotes self-reliance. The UNHCR Deputy Representative in Iraq, Grainne Ohara, recently took part in a press conference held in the Iraqi Council of Representatives to celebrate the achievements of these NGOs.

One example of a local organization that benefitted from a UNHCR grant is Women for Peace, which received $37,940 to provide health services to more than 1,000 internally displaced people in Baghdad governorate. With the help of their grant, Women for Peace was able to partner with the Baghdad Provincial Council and doctors from a number of local clinics to carry out a field survey of settlements and informal camps in Baghdad. This allowed them to identify the most urgent health needs.

Following this, teams of doctors were then able to circulate in several areas, providing health services to both internally displaced people and members of the host community. A total of 1,291 patients were seen in more than a dozen locations. Patient services included the provision of medicines to regulate blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis; working to resolve inflammation and bacterial infections; providing gynaecological services; and in some cases treating broken bones. Women for Peace also distributed more than 1,900 medical and hygiene kits to internally displaced people across Baghdad, helping to improve health and sanitation for some of the most vulnerable people in the city.

UNOPS also provided further capacity building support to local NGOs: a guide for NGOs on best practices in grant application and management was designed and distributed and a training workshop was also given.

UNOPS has longstanding experience in the management, monitoring and distribution of grants on behalf of partners. Since 2005, UNOPS has awarded more than 500 grants to Iraqi civil society organizations, ranging in size from $10,000 to over $300,000.


  • (L) A group of children celebrate the opening of a dedicated youth education and recreation centre in a camp for internally displaced persons in Baghdad © International Friendship Foundation (Iraq)
  • (R) Volunteer doctors conduct check-ups of women and children living in camps for internally displaced persons around Baghdad © Al-Rafidain Peace Organization

Explore further