More than a decade after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the country is no closer to living in peace and stability. The onslaught of the Islamic State, which captured swaths of Iraqi territory this year, has led to a startling refugee crisis. More than 2 million Iraqis were forced from their homes this year alone. As my colleague Loveday Morris reports, the vast numbers of Iraqis displaced by conflict add to a considerable population of Syrian refugees, who fled to Iraq to escape the horrors of the civil war next door.
The video above was produced by the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and published on YouTube last week. It's also available on a terrific interactive Web site launched by OCHA, which catalogs the various disasters faced by the U.N. agency and the means with which they were tackled.
"The scope of the crises [in Iraq] is enormous," the video's narrator says, and goes on to enumerate the numbers displaced and the funds required to provide necessary aid. Thousands have seen little of the promised relief. As The Washington Post reports, the U.N.'s response plan for Iraq's refugees is only 31 percent funded.
"It’s not that we can do more with less; it’s that we don’t have anything and the needs on the ground are immense," Barbara Manzi, OCHA's outgoing Iraq representative, told Morris.
"With so little relief available, families turn wherever they can for help," Morris writes. "Displaced Christians get some additional assistance from local churches, but their independently administered camps are poorly equipped for winter."
Global attention turned toward Iraq after the Islamic State managed to capture the major city of Mosul this summer. The majority of the displaced come from areas near the country's Kurdish heartland in the north, including members of the persecuted Yazidi sect, and Anbar province, whose population is predominantly Sunni Arab.
But it would be short-sighted to blame the ensuing humanitarian disaster entirely on the militants. The Islamic State made significant inroads into Iraq partially because of the incompetence and myopia of the politicians in Baghdad. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was more or less hand-picked by the United States, presided over a deeply sectarian government which favored the country's Shiites at the expense of the minority Sunnis.
A newly-formed government, led by a more conciliatory prime minister, is struggling to patch up divisions and build a more inclusive society. But much damage has already been done, as the U.N. video indicates. Far away from the political wrangling, there are hundreds of thousands still lacking food and shelter as the winter cold sets in.