A military operation to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group could produce the largest civilian displacement anywhere in the world this year, according to the United Nations — and critics say the UN and Kurdish authorities are unprepared for the influx.
Kurdish authorities, already caring for more than one million displaced people, are reluctant to allow more displaced people into areas under their control, amid concerns about possible infiltration by ISIL sympathizers.
An eventual assault on Mosul could displace more than one million more people, according to UN estimates.
“Even by our most conservative estimates, this could be the largest population movement anywhere in the world this year,” Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, told Al Jazeera.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed that this will be the year Iraqi forces retake Mosul. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is expecting to receive between 300,000 and 500,000 displaced people from Mosul.
A third of Iraq’s 3.4 million displaced people have taken refuge in Kurdish areas, increasing the region’s population by nearly 30 percent, the highest ratio anywhere in the world. The World Bank estimates the displacement crisis cost the KRG $1.4bn in 2015, at a time when its economy was experiencing severe recession.
Both the Kurds and the UN say humanitarian funding is grossly lacking. So far, donors have pledged just $75m of the $861m that the UN has asked for in Iraq this year.