This webpage aims at providing background information on the humanitarian and education situation in Iraq, as well as links to key documents and websites. If you are looking for more detailed information on the education response, please visit the Iraq Education Cluster operational webpage.

Humanitarian Situation Overview

The internal armed conflict between armed groups and government forces has escalated rapidly since January 2014 and resulted in more than 2.6 million internally displaced people across Iraq. Violations of international humanitarian laws by all parties to the conflict are widespread, attacks on essential public facilities such as hospitals and schools are frequent and the denial of access to basic services has been employed as a weapon of war. Civilians of all ethnic and religious background have been targeted by violence.

Basic social services have been severely weakened by the ongoing conflict and massive influx of displaced people, compounded by decades of under-investment. According to the 2014/2015 Iraq Strategic Response Plan, an estimated 5.2 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian and protection assistance due to ongoing violence and insecurity. This includes over two million newly internally displaced since January 2014, some 2.5 million individuals in affected host communities, another 1.8 vulnerable Iraqis who are not displaced but remain in conflict-affected areas, and 250,000 Syrian refugees.

On 13 August 2014, the IASC Principals and the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) declared a UN system-wide Level 3 emergency in response to the worsening situation. But humanitarian access to at least 2.2 million Iraqis in need is severely compromised in areas under the control of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and affiliated armed groups. The pace, scale and scope of the crisis has taken many humanitarian partners by surprise, forcing agencies to scale-up at difficult rate in the current conditions in Iraq. Shortages in funding remain a massive challenge. 60% of humanitarian operations in Iraq are in financial trouble and will shut-down or be curtailed unless funding is received quickly. The Fast Track Priorities from the Iraq Strategic Response Plan released in February 2015 presents priorities identified by each cluster, discussed with counterparts and endorsed by the Humanitarian Country Team. Covering a five-month timeframe, they are absolute and urgent and have been stripped of non-essential activities.

Impact on Children and Education

The scale of violence and displacement has significantly disrupted the education system in Iraq. The provision of essential public services, including education, has sharply deteriorated, or become inaccessible in conflict-affected areas. Over 3.1 million children have been affected by the crisis across Iraq. Of 810,000 school-aged children 6 to 17 internally displaced within Iraq, 68 per cent (over 550,000) are not in school. Further, over 75 per cent of these children have missed out one whole year of learning. There are also 180,000 IPD children between the ages of 4 and 5 displaced and in need of specialized early childhood care and support.

While all children and adolescents in camps should have access to safe learning environments, space for education facilities is limited, and of the 78,000 school-aged children between 6 and 17 in camps across Iraq, enrolment stands at only 45 per cent. In addition, there are over 17,000 children aged 4 to 5 in camps with literally little access to early childhood care and development.

Only some 30 per cent of the 730,000 children aged 6 to 17 internally displaced outside of camps have access to educational activities. Reasons include the overstretched public education systems, lack of adequate resources, distance to school, different curriculums, language barriers and insecurity. Attendance and availability of education spaces varies significantly across Governorates, depending on the location of many IDPs, the prevailing security situations. For example, enrolment of displaced children at non-camp education facilities in Anbar and Baghdad stands at 18 and 12 per cent, while Erbil and Sulaymania have enrolment rates over 70 per cent in formal schools.

The influx of IDPs is putting pressure on an already limited education infrastructure impacting at least 930,000 school children in host communities across the country. The use of over 1,500 school buildings for housing the displaced in the initial phase delayed the start of the school year, and an additional 130 schools are still occupied by armed groups in the central region of Iraq where fighting is still ongoing. Host community schools have been overloaded with an influx of displaced children, many – if not all – of whom have been affected emotionally and require psycho-social assistance. A further 860,000 children are estimated to be in areas under the control of ISIL and other Armed Opposition Groups (AOGs). In area under ISIL control, sciences, art, music, history and literature have been eliminated from the curriculum and an overall oppression of educational freedom pervades. Children who have experienced this restricted curriculum will need to re-learn anew and the teachers may need to be retrained.


Where learning areas have been destroyed or abandoned such as in newly liberated villages restarting basic services must include restoring electricity and water to schools.

Iraq is also hosting nearly 250,000 Syrian refugees concentrated mainly in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Of the 59,000 school-aged Syrian refugee children aged 6 to 17 and 22,000 children aged 3 to 5 in Iraq, only 52 per cent are currently enrolled in education. Of the children in camps, 62 per cent are enrolled; of those residing in host communities only 43 per cent are enrolled. Education opportunities for refugees are limited to basic education, with few resources available for secondary or higher education, even though there is a high demand particularly for secondary education.

Out of school adolescent boys and girls without opportunities for positive and productive engagement are more likely to marry early, to engage in child labour, support or join armed groups, and turn to negative coping behaviours. Lack of access to education increases the risk of political and social manipulation and aggravates social inequalities. With rising poverty rates, a bulging youth population, coupled with high unemployment and huge gender disparities, Iraq cannot afford to lose a generation of children and young people through denial of their fundamental right to education.

Education Response

The two strategic objective of the Education Cluster are: access to quality education for IDPs and host-community children, and integration of psycho-social support (PSS) to children and teachers in the education response. Activities include:

  • Repair and rehabilitation of schools (with WASH facilities)
  • Provision of temporary learning spaces (TLS);
  • Provision of teaching and learning materials
  • Training of teachers, education personnel and members of Parent-Teachers Associations (PTAs) in PSS, CFS and inclusive education
  • Support, activation and /or establishment of PTAs in target schools

Education Cluster partners are currently providing education activities for over 110,000 children, including the provision of non-formal education and recreational activities, as well as the provision of additional learning spaces for formal education. The Education Cluster is currently conducting an assessment to get a clearer picture f the educational needs of children in camps and remaining barriers to education for displaced children.

Read the 2014/2015 Strategic Response Plan for additional information of the Education Cluster strategy and activities. A new Humanitarian Response Plan is under development.


Gøril Tomren, RRT member and cluster coordinator, was deployed in October-December 2015 to provide support to the cluster team with the SRP process. She was re-deployed remotely in March 2015 to fill the gap until the new coordinator started.

Education Cluster Contact List

For additional contact information, please check the Iraq education contact list on

Do not hesitate to contact the Education Cluster Unit, contact details available here.

Updated on 6 May 2015

*Iraq photograph credits: © Magali Pons / Save the Children


2 Responses to “Iraq”

  1. Wilmer says:

    Where did you obtain the material to compose this post:
    Iraq – Education Cluster ?

  2. Lisa Sabot-Schmid says:

    We worked closely with the Education Cluster in Iraq to write this webpage. Information on the education situation and response in Iraq can also be found on websites such as ReliefWeb or

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