poverty in Iraq
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), the poverty rate in Iraq reached 31.7% in 2020. Oil and gas production dominate many countries within the Middle East and gas production and Iraq is no different. The World Bank claims that Iraq is “one of the most oil-dependent nations” in the world, with oil revenues accounting for “99% of its exports, 85% of the government’s budget and 42% of Iraq’s GDP.” Unlike other oil-rich countries, Iraq has failed to turn the abundance of natural resources into profit and benefit the average Iraqi’s life. Corruption and conflict have decimated Iraq, displacing 1.2 million Iraqis and leaving 2.4 million people in need of food and livelihood assistance, according to WFP. Here is everything to know about poverty in Iraq.

Iraqi Civil War

Iraq has long been a divided country. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) believes increased “levels of violence, sectarian and ethnic divisions, population pressure, religious extremism and intervention from outside states” as key contributors that empowered ISIS and helped lead Iraq to civil war.

“In 2014, the Islamic State advanced into Iraq from Syria” and took control of most of northern Iraq. The terrorist organization proceeded to use horrific acts of violence whilst it controlled major Iraqi cities such as Mosul. The U.S. “formed an international coalition that now includes nearly 80 countries to counter the Islamic State,” Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) states.

Whilst ISIS was eradicated from Iraq in 2017, the damage had already been done. Iraq is yet to fully recover from the conflict. CFR reports that “more than 2 million people remain internally displaced and 9 million remain in need of humanitarian assistance” following the conflict.

Many major cities face huge reconstruction due to the complete devastation caused by the war. The total reconstruction could cost at least $88 billion. This is a price that the Iraqi government simply cannot afford. Thus, much of Iraqi infrastructure is still not functional and many Iraqis are still yet to return to their original homes.

Oil and Corruption

According to Transparency International, Iraq ranks 157th in the Corruption Perceptions Index, having a score of 23/100 in 2022. The National Interest stated that Iraqi officials stole money that the country could have used to fight ISIS and rebuild the nation.

Estimates vary on how much money has gone missing in Iraq, but some suggest that the country has lost as much as $300 billion since 2003. This money could have helped rebuild Iraq after the conflict with ISIS, whilst also helping to tackle the ever-growing poverty crisis in Iraq.

With the majority of revenues generated coming from oil exports, the corruption in Iraq has significantly impeded the development of non-oil business sectors. Resulting in continual dependency on high oil prices.

Average Iraqis never seem to see the benefits of oil profits due to the ongoing corruption. The Iraqi government has seemingly failed to provide adequate basic services for the Iraqi population. Protests in 2019 appeared to engulf major cities such as Baghdad due to the failure of the government to provide jobs and life improvements to young people despite an increase in oil production.

According to AP News, overall unemployment in Iraq is 11% whilst “one-third of Iraqi youth are without jobs.” This is all while the World Bank expected Iraq’s GDP to grow by 4.6% due to increased oil exports.

Poverty and Unemployment

The World Bank stated that in 2021 Iraq’s unemployment rate was “more than 10 percentage points higher than its pre-COVID-19 level of 12.7 percentage points.” It also states that unemployment amongst the “displaced, returnees, women jobseekers, pre-pandemic self-employed and informal workers remains elevated.”

With the government’s decision to devalue the dinar against the dollar by 20%, as Iraq produces very little, the public has little choice but to buy imported goods which are now more expensive.

NPR believes that due to the government’s over-dependency on oil, it is imperative for Iraq to diversify its economy and increase its private sector. The result would be that many livelihoods would no longer be dependent on the state. Currently, when oil prices drop, unemployment and poverty increase.

Looking Ahead

Despite large oil profits generating substantial wealth, the money never appears for ordinary Iraqis who struggle to make ends meet. The failure to rebuild Iraq, large unemployment and violent conflict against ISIS have held Iraq back from becoming a more prosperous nation. A lack of action from the Iraqi government alongside systemic corruption has not helped the ever-increasing poverty epidemic in the country.

Although the future does not look too bright for the Iraqi people, the government has announced a reform plan. Finance minister Ali Allawi unveiled a plan to encourage investment by improving Iraq’s infrastructure, bumping up tax revenues and stimulating agriculture, NRP reports.

If the government has the will and determination to see through the reform plan instead of relying on oil money, there is a chance that the government can improve the livelihoods of many Iraqis. This could significantly reduce poverty in Iraq and many of the displaced people could return home.

– Josef Whitehead
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Iraq
es of war and conflict have left their mark on Iraq. The lack of stability in the region has made the productive investment a challenge and limited private sector consumption and growth. Living conditions in Iraq are often strenuous and many people struggle with poverty, unemployment and malnutrition.

The struggle has marked the recent past for many Iraqis, however, despite setbacks, the country is trying to rebuild itself. In May 2018, the country had its first national election since the war with ISIS, instilling hope in many people that Iraq is on it’s way to political stability. The hope is that times of war are in the past and a new Iraq lays ahead. In the text below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Iraq are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Iraq

  1. Between 2014 and 2017 the Iraqi government was engulfed in civil war with the Islamic State (ISIS). In December 2017, the Iraqi government announced that all territory captured by ISIS during the war had been liberated. However, the effects of the war were tragic for the people. For example, in the period between January 2014 and October 2015, nearly 19,000 civilians were killed and about 3.2 million people were internally displaced.
  2. As a result of the fighting and destruction during the Iraqi Civil War, millions of civilians were displaced from their homes, lost their jobs and were stripped of many other assets key for financial security. Reflective of this situation is the disproportionality of unemployment rates in areas most affected by ISIS (21.6 percent) compared to the rest of the country (11.2 percent). Additionally, UNICEF released a report this year warning that one in four children in Iraq is in poverty and four million in need of assistance as a direct result of the war.
  3. On September 25, 2017, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) passed a referendum establishing independence from Iraq. In response to the results of the referendum, the federal Iraqi government instructed the KRG to nullify the results of the referendum as well as withdraw KRG military forces from the city of Kirkuk. On Oct. 16, Iraqi forces retook previously Kurdish-controlled territories forcing thousands of Kurdish families to flee their homes and escape the approaching Iraqi federal forces.
  4. In May 2018, Iraq held its first national election since the ISIS takeover in 2014. Although the fact that the elections were held is positive, voter turnout was the lowest since the country’s first democratic election in 2005, coming in at 44.5 percent. Additionally, the vote had to be recounted in June due to concerns over serious violations in the initial vote count. Four months after the elections, the winning parties are still in negotiations over forming the next government.
  5. In recent years, rainfall has been increasingly sparse throughout Iraq. Lack of rainfall, as well as dam construction upstream in Turkey and Iran, have significantly reduced water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which has consequential effects on Iraqi agricultural and hydroelectric outputs. As an added concern, the increasingly dry seasons have caused water salinization making it unusable for farming and worsening living conditions in Iraq.
  6. Results gathered by the World Food Program reveal that 53 percent of Iraqi residents are vulnerable to food insecurity. Faring worse than national averages are Iraqis who have been internally displaced by the civil war. Results show that 66 percent of internally displaced people are susceptible to food insecurity.
  7. Life expectancy in Iraq is reported to be 58.7 years for men and 62.9 years for women. In recent years, health care for Iraq’s population has been weakened due to warfare and economic sanctions. As Iraq’s GDP has shrunk in the recent past so has its public expenditure on health care. Health services have deteriorated and routine shortages in drugs and other supplies followed.
  8. Iraq has an incredibly young population. Forty percent of the population was born after the U.S. invasion in 2003. This youthful group of civilians poses unique challenges and benefits to the country. To support this population the government will need to invest in education and other social services to maintain suitable living conditions in Iraq. In the upcoming years, the Iraqi labor force is expected to increase greatly, offering up a significant economic opportunity for the country.
  9. Iraq has free of charge, compulsory primary education for six years. In comparison to other countries in the region, Iraq has been notable for its commitment to educating boys and girls alike. As a result of this egalitarian approach to public education, Iraq has an overall literacy rate of 80 percent.
  10. Compared objectively to women’s freedoms globally, Iraqi women undergo certain practices that have been deemed suppressive and unequal in many countries. More than 24 percent of Iraqi women claim to have been married before the age of 18, indicating a very high rate of child marriage. Additionally, 8 percent of women are claimed to have been victims of female genital mutilation. These data and other statistics rank Iraq 123 out of 189 countries on the U.N.’s Gender Inequality Index.

When looking at Iraq, one can see a country set back and hurt by decades of conflict. Currently, though, the country is not at war and the national election this past May marked the progress of the living conditions in the country since the chaos of a year ago. However, a voting recount and partisan negotiations have made the results of the election vague and uncertain.

Reflective of the frustration of this election and the futile optimism of the Iraqi people is a quote from Hawla Habib, a professor at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad explaining that “all Iraqis care about their nation, it’s just that many are too tired to think anymore.”

– Clarke Hallum
Photo: Flickr

Economic Development In Iraq Contributes To Fight Poverty
According to the World Bank, after the complete eradication of ISIS in all of its territory, economic development in Iraq will most likely be deployed and bear fruitful results.

ISIS and Iraq

More specifically, the increase of oil prices and the promising rise of investments towards reconstruction are presumably fueled by a set of government actions. These decisions are set to facilitate and accelerate the process of economic and social recovery in the wake of ISIS which, as of December 2017, is no longer a major threat for Iraq.

Since 2014, the ISIS war and prolonged decrease of oil prices heavily contributed to the contraction of a non-oil economy by 21.6 percent. Therefore, a safer economic and social environment will bring nothing but economic and social relief.

Indeed, the most treasured tool for economic development in Iraq is certainly oil extraction, which accounts for 55 percent of the GDP. The remaining part of this number is divided between the services sector (33 percent), manufacturing, construction, water and electricity production (8 percent) and agriculture (4 percent).

Iraq’s Economic Growth

Oil prices and restored security, then, have been the main factors for Iraq’s solid economic growth in 2016, which amounted to 10 percent. However, fiscal responsibility and curbing corruption should go hand-in-hand with such economic development in Iraq.

To maintain a steady trend in economic growth and the road of improvement, the Iraqi government should take a serious look at how tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is barely detectable because of quite high levels of evasion and poor enforcement. Moreover, in terms of public spending, the government has been spending an amount close to to 42.7 percent of the (GDP) over the past three years, and budget deficits have averaged 8.6 percent of GDP. Public debt, as a consequence, is equivalent to 63.7 percent of GDP.

Poverty Eradication

Actions, however, have been taken towards the greater goal of poverty eradication in Iraq. In terms of analysis and planning, the government has, in fact, determined an official poverty line based on the 2006/07 IHSES (Household socio-economic survey), which also formed the basis for Iraq’s National Strategy for Poverty Reduction 2009.

Assessment reports measuring causes of poverty paired with high frequency, advanced impute expenditure surveys are top methods used to estimate poverty.

Road to Improvement

The Iraqian economy is largely state-run and oil extraction represents some 90 percent of government revenues. Meanwhile, 3.9 percent of people in Iraq are living in extreme poverty (2012). In fact, 18.9 percent live below the national poverty line (2012), with greater rural poverty than urban poverty; 11.6 percent of people in Iraq are multidimensionally poor (2011).

In recent years, economic improvement has been proven effective due to major social internal accomplishments — liberating ISIS territory is certainly on top of the list. Government and state presence can certainly encourage investments and economic development in Iraq, as they have done sporadically in previous occasions. However, it would be quite beneficial towards goals of poverty reduction if a larger portion of the economy could be left to the private sector.

– Luca Di Fabio
Photo: Flickr

media misrepresents Iraq
For more than a decade, Iraq has generated a lot of coverage across international news outlets. A large portion of this coverage continues to focus on the perilous security situation which continues to plague the country. Furthermore, extremist activities such as suicide bombings and other forms of armed conflict remain in the spotlight. Although these issues do exist, the media misrepresents Iraq by omitting its positive progress.

Media’s Focus on Iraq’s History of Conflict

In general, Iraq is viewed as a massive military blunder on the part of the United States and coalition forces. It is argued that after the removal of the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, the country further devolved into armed conflict among different factions, particularly ISIS and al-Qaida, who have continued to perpetuate violent activities in the region. In addition, increasing tensions between Kurdish forces and the Iraqi government are also highlighted. 

While it is true that Iraq’s economy, infrastructure and civilian population has been devastated by violence, there is reason for hope. Following the removal of Saddam Hussein, Iraq created the Council of Representatives (COR), a newly elected 275-member parliament. For the first time in more than half a decade, Iraq would have a democratically elected body. In April 2014, Iraq further expanded the COR to 328 members through a national legislative election. Also, the Iraqi people witnessed a peaceful transition of power from former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to new Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi. 

On June 10, 2014, The Washington Post reported that ISIS insurgents seized the Iraqi city of Mosul, leading to a retreat of Iraq’s security forces. Much of the coverage afterward would continue to focus on the atrocities carried out by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In December 2017, the Iraqi government formally announced the defeat of ISIS in Mosul and other urban strongholds across the region. ISIS’ defeat is a major step in the stabilization of the current security situation in Iraq. 

Media Misrepresents Iraq with Inadequate Reporting on Economic Progress

The media’s continued coverage of major security issues is another way in which the media misrepresents Iraq. The current focus fails to recognize the positive changes Iraq has seen in multiple areas. For example, the mortality rate for children under five years of age has dropped by 23 percent since 2000.

Currently, oil refineries make up 90 percent of Iraq’s exports in the global economy. Recognizing this trend, the Iraqi government has signed major contracts with large companies in the petroleum industry. In an effort to seek foreign investment, Iraq has also begun to initiate sweeping institutional and economic reforms across the country. However, reporting on Iraq’s current economic status has been largely negative due to continued armed conflict. This is another way in which the media misrepresents Iraq. 

To aid in rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure and bolster economic growth, the U.S. and other countries have pledged a $30 billion line of credit for the country. In addition, Iraq is slated to receive roughly $199 million in foreign assistance from the U.S. for FY 2019. Continued foreign aid and an extended line of credit are essential for progress in the war-torn country. 

Iraq’s current status is often viewed negatively. Misrepresentation by the media overlooks many of the positive things Iraq has accomplished in recent years. These achievements provide a glance into a much brighter future for the country, one in which Iraqi citizens can experience a higher quality of life and greater economic opportunities. 

– Colby McCoy
Photo: Flickr

facts about poverty in Iraq

Amongst the number of complex challenges facing Iraq today, poverty is at the forefront. Despite this Middle Eastern country’s wealth in oil production and exportation, this affluence has not translated to many Iraqi citizens. Here are some facts about poverty in Iraq that show where change is needed.


Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Iraq


  1. With widespread insecurity since 2014, Iraq is in a state of humanitarian crisis with 10 million people in need and more than 3 million internally displaced persons.
  2. According to the World Bank, “the standard of living has deteriorated and a noticeable share of the population has fallen into poverty or is extremely vulnerable to falling into poverty.” In 2014, poverty reached 22.5 percent nationwide.
  3. The ISIS-affected government has created social, economic and security disruptions, all of which deeply impact poverty in Iraq.  This violence has increased civilian mortality and left parts of the country outside of government control, incidents that then have lead to massive internal displacement.
  4. Ninety-five percent of Iraq’s exports are from oil. Despite this wealth, Iraq’s weak government and chronic political unrest have caused the country’s poverty rate to drop to 18.9 percent.
  5. Population contributes to the amount of those living below the poverty line. Iraq’s population tripled between 1970 and 2007 and today it stands at approximately 34 million; by 2030, it is expected to grow to almost 50 million.
  6. Oil revenues have usurped investments in education, health systems and critical infrastructure. This shift has caused a lack of diversification within the economy by enabling the private sector to grow and create jobs.
  7. The quality of water and sanitation infrastructure significantly affects community health, particularly levels of observed malnutrition. Although connection to the public water supply is common, reliability in water delivery is not. Most households have to supplement their water supply from secondary sources such as tanker trucks or open wells.
  8. Only 9 percent of the poor and 13 percent of the non-poor report a stable supply of water from the public system. Nearly a third reports daily interruptions, and another third reports weak supply or interruptions more than once a week.
  9. Homeownership among the poor is 82 percent, which is higher than homeownership among the non-poor, which is around 78 percent. This difference is due to the likelihood that the poor live in rural areas where homeownership is relatively high compared to urban areas.
  10. Seventy-one percent of Iraqis live in urban areas, and 51 percent of Iraqi households are crowded, some with as many as 10 people living in one home. Crowding is particularly severe among the poor, lying at 81 percent compared to the 44 percent of the non-poor. Fourteen percent of poor live in homes with dirt floors, while only 3 percent of the non-poor.

These 10 facts about poverty in Iraq show how this war-torn nation must focus on improving infrastructure, healthcare and government in order to decrease dropping poverty rates. Change is needed immediately in order to improve the security and strength of this impoverished nation.

– Kailey Brennan

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in IraqAlthough it is abundantly wealthy in oil reserves, Iraq’s weak government and chronic political unrest are two of the main issues fueling the country’s poverty rate of 18.9 percent. Other causes of poverty in Iraq include a lack of investment in stable education and healthcare systems. The nation’s infrastructure is also deteriorating. While the economy was steadily improving before 2012, the development and destruction caused by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have set the country back.

While Iraq is by textbook definition a democracy, the nation is shrouded with instability. It has a history of harsh oppression, violent neighboring countries, and an inherent lack of women’s rights. This volatility makes it impossible to maintain a strong central government. Consequently, poverty-decreasing programs are impossible to enact.

In 2013, the World Bank recognized that poor infrastructure and institutions were limiting Iraq’s ability to reach its potential and launched a huge Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) campaign with three goals: improving governance, supporting economic diversification and reducing poverty.


ISIS’s Role in Poverty in Iraq


The work of the CPS campaign was incredibly effective. However, ISIS’s emergence has created obstacles in Iraq’s path towards improvement. While unemployment was at a record low in 2014, it climbed back to 16 percent in 2016. This high rate is yet another addition to the causes of poverty in Iraq.

Organizations such as the World Bank and UNICEF have only increased their presence in Iraq since the conflict and its ensuing destruction began making international news.

Much of their current work aims to help children, as one-fourth of Iraq’s children are living in poverty. UNICEF works to provide vaccinations and medical care to communities where this is prevalent.  A new World Bank initiative seeks to promote the inclusion of conflict-affected children in Iraq, both socially and with regards to their education. With the help of generous international organizations, Iraq is doggedly continuing to improve the welfare of its citizens.

Emily Trosclair

Photo: Flickr

iraqi_kurdistanThere has been no shortage of news in the past year about the refugee situation wrought by the activities of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, which has displaced an approximate 1.8 million Iraqis this year — 800,000 of whom have fled to safer Iraqi Kurdistan. Currently home to one of the largest numbers of internally displaced peoples (IDPs) in the world, according to UNESCO, facilities in Iraqi Kurdistan have struggled in the past year to compensate for the strain placed upon them by refugees and IDPs.

However, often overlooked in the news are the smaller stories of hope, which residents of these refugee camps are attempting to stake out a better future for themselves and their children.

One such tale can be found in the Mar Elia refugee camp in the Christian neighborhood of Ankawa, located in the larger region of Erbil; the unofficial capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Opened by Douglas al-Bazi, Mar Elia started out as an empty lot surrounding al-Bazi’s office in the Mar Elia Chaldean Church. Today, however, the refugee camp holds 500 displaced refugees—most of whom are Christians and also boasts enviable facilities for its residents such as a large playground, a volleyball court, ping-pong tables, and a set of swings.

The most important features of the camp, however, are the two classrooms that flank either side of the camp’s entrance. These classrooms, which are stocked with books, textbooks, and musical instruments, reflect the most unusual aspect of the Mar Elia camp, the emphasis placed upon education.

According to al-Bazi, he has received a lot of criticism for spending so much money on education from workers in neighboring camps in the Erbil region of Iraqi Kurdistan, such as Baharka, which hosts 4,000 displaced Iraqis yet receives fewer funding. Mar Elia, with its unique focus on education, seems out of place compared to the dozens of other poorly-funded camps built in Iraqi Kurdistan, which have sprung up since IS seized several cities in the Northern area of Iraq in the summer of 2014–including the mostly Christian area of Mosul.

Al-Bazi, however, has countered these critiques by arguing that “it’s not empty stomachs that destroyed [Iraq]; it’s empty minds.” Al-Bazi also believes that “it’s easy for IS to thrive among abandoned people”–especially among refugee youths who have been mentally abandoned by a strained aid system that has struggled to meet the educational needs of the thousands of IDPs living within Iraqi Kurdistan.

Al-Bazi thus believes that education can provide a mental shield to children and youths living in Mar Elia; which can in turn protect them from being sucked into the activities and lure of the Islamic State.

Commenting on the situation in Iraq, Zayad Abdulqadir, Advisor to the Minister of Education in the Kurdistan Regional Government stated that “as the number of IDPs in Kurdistan increases due to the crisis in Iraq, Kurdistan faces the difficult challenge of providing educational opportunities for all of them.”

In the midst of this, students and inhabitants of Mar Elia, who are called “relatives” by Mar Elia volunteer, continue to take daily lessons from a variety of courses on offer such as violin lessons.

Next year, al-Bazi hopes to include Spanish and Italian lessons in the Mar Elia curriculum.

– Ana Powell

Sources: Al-Fanar Media Al Monitor, UNESCO
Photo: Al Monitor

Poverty in Iraq
Dozens of pregnant Iraqi women are being admitted to the hospital with life threatening conditions every month. According to UNICEF, maternal mortality rates in the war torn country have increased by 65% since 1989, a number that is much higher than neighboring countries. Until political conditions improve and citizens gain better access to healthcare and basic necessities in Iraq, doctors in the region fear the problem will get worse.

Dr. Mayada Youssif, a gynecologist in Baghdad, attributes “insecurity and poverty that Iraqis live with due to conflict” to the increasing mortality rate.  “Insecurity has forced women to stay at home during their whole period of pregnancy,” Youssif says, “and they look for a doctor only when they are feeling really ill or feel, near delivery time, that conditions have become too dangerous.”

UNICEF recommends three basic needs that should be available for pregnant women and their babies: good nutrition, access to antenatal care  and access to emergency care if a problem were to arise. All of these services are impeded in Iraq because of issues such as curfews and fear of violence, meaning that sometimes help isn’t sought out until it is too late.

That is exactly the situation Salah Hussein found himself in when his wife died during childbirth. The doctors attributed her death to a combination of malnutrition and the effects of constant stress from living in a war torn country. Now Hussein faces having to raise his child alone. Malnutrition is still a problem, as he cannot afford formula for his child.

Even if women can get to a doctor, many hospitals are ill equipped to deal with common pregnancy issues, such as anemia. The UN is currently looking into fortifying flour with iron and folic acid to help combat anemia, but presently the issue remains.

There is a rising call to increase investment in the health department to combat rising mortality rates. The main issue is the lack of specialized care that is available to all pregnant women. Some live in areas where they cannot get to a doctor, or worse, there is not a doctor in the area at all.

Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: Global Research, IRIN News
Photo: Global Research