Iraq — January 2009

Sociopolitical Situation

Provincial elections are scheduled for 31 January but will be held in only 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces. A new law excludes the province of Kirkuk and the three Kurdish provinces of Arbil, Dhouk and Sulaimaniyah. Elections in these provinces will not be held until March 2009 while the existing multi-communal council will continue to administer the province of Kirkuk.

According to the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration, some 622 Iraqi families have returned to their homes from Jordan and Syria since the beginning of the year. Local and international NGOs have said that the Iraqi government should review its policy of encouraging Iraqi refugees to return home by offering free plane or bus tickets, until it is able to ensure security, essential services and effective means to resolve property disputes.

The country is struggling to monitor the outbreak of cholera; 534 cases nationwide have been attributed to contaminated water. Immediate action is needed to ensure that an adequate supply of clean water is made available to those many areas of the country with an insufficient supply of potable water.

A top official from the ministry of health has said that Iraq needs 100,000 doctors, but has only 15,500. Most specialists have abandoned their jobs and sought refuge abroad, while others have headed to the relative safety of Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Their departure has crippled a health care system plagued by corruption, mismanagement and lack of equipment and drugs.

The Iraqi education system was devastated due to violence that prevented students from elementary school through university from attending classes. The education ministry decided to launch the academic year as scheduled; parents and students hoped for a fresh start. The education ministry later confirmed that more than six million students started school nationwide.

Religious Situation

The escalation of sectarian violence in Iraq is pushing the last remaining Christians out of the country, perhaps for good.

In the autumn, anti-Christian violence forced thousands of Christian families to flee their homes in Mosul. According to UNHCR, as many as 2,200 families, about 13,000 individuals, have sought refuge in surrounding villages. Some 400 families had crossed the border into Syria, while others had gone to safe areas to the north and east of Mosul and to neighboring Dahuk, Arbil and Kirkuk provinces.

These displaced families, some of whom fled to Mosul from the escalating violence in Baghdad, left their homes and jobs and pulled their children out of school. They are without work, money, shelter and even food.

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