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Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to begin assessing Iraqi internally displaced persons and returnees in need of social protection assistance with UN support

Baghdad, The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs announced on Wednesday (February 1), it will begin a far-reaching verification process to assess the eligibility of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and IDP returnees to the Social Safety Net (SSN) programme – a poverty targeted social assistance programme implemented by the Ministry and measured by different criteria including income, assets, number of household members, age, and others.

Starting in February, the Ministry will conduct household visits to IDPs living both inside and outside camps, including in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Those identified as eligible will be enrolled in the social assistance system that includes monthly cash payments for covering their basic needs.

“The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is collaborating with the Ministry of Migration and Displaced and United Nations agencies working to provide support to internally displaced persons (…) To-date, the Ministry has included 42,000 internally displaced families in the social protection cash assistance, with another 10,000 families who have registered through the digital platform. We will begin in the coming weeks to visit these camps to include them in the social safety nets,” said Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Ahmad Al-Asadi.

Iraq currently hosts 1,173,812 IDPs, as well as 4,978,674 IDP returnees. Until recently, the majority of this population was unable to access the national social protection system given their displacement situation, relying instead on assistance from humanitarian agencies to meet their basic needs.

The new development will ensure that most vulnerable IDPs and returnees who fit the SSN criteria will be included into the national social assistance system at par with the rest of the Iraqi population.

It comes following months of collaboration between the Ministry – which implements several of the social assistance programmes in Iraq – and United Nations agencies, including UNHCR, ILO, UNICEF and WFP, to support Government efforts through advocacy, awareness and research to ensure the effective inclusion of such households in Government support.

UNHCR and the Ministry worked together to analyse data of the recipient households of their respective support and identify gaps and overlaps. Through this process, they identified that 67,487 IDP and returnee households in the UNHCR database were already in the Ministry’s own database, with 44,455 already receiving SSN, while 13,256 were considered ineligible and 9,776 were awaiting verification from the Ministry.

The verification process which will be launched in February will further support efforts to assess households for SSN inclusion.

The decision of the Minister to include IDPs and returnees is in line with the UN vision to transition its support to Iraq from humanitarian interventions to development in support to the national authorities. It allows extremely vulnerable IDPs to transition from cash assistance provided by humanitarian partners to sustainable support from the Iraqi authorities, thus helping them to find dignified solution to their displacement.

“The inclusion of IDPs and IDP returnees in the national social protection system at par with the rest of the Iraqi population is an essential move by the Government to take responsibility for its own citizens and is in line with the UN’s objective of transitioning from humanitarian interventions to durable solution. I commend the Minister for his leadership in making sure that all Iraqi citizens, including the most vulnerable who have been directly affected by Da’esh, are supported and eventually lifted out of poverty which will have an impact on promoting social cohesion in Iraq,” said Ghulam Isaczai Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq.

A joint UN position paper was published last year on the adoption of a Social Protection Floor in Iraq. The paper outlines a framework and recommendations for the establishment of a coherent, impactful and inclusive social protection system. The vision puts forward includes shock-responsive social protection system that would support in facilitating access, inclusion and coverage of vulnerable persons, including forcibly displaced populations.

Moving forward, the Ministry will prioritise the integration of graduation strategies for SSN recipient households, to support those who are willing and able to work to lift themselves out of poverty through decent employment in collaboration with ILO.

Source: United Nations Iraq