Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Kirkuk. Rudaw photo
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region — More than 600,000 displaced Iraqis are still living in dire conditions in poorly equipped camps across Kirkuk province as shortage of heating fuel and bread forced them to face a brutal winter in the cold.
“There is no heating kerosene to buy even if you have money which we really don’t,” said Hamida Mohsin who has spent the entire cold season in a refugee camp outside Kirkuk city.
“Our only request is to be given our ration of kerosene so that we can keep our tents warm for the reminder of the winter,” she said, as she sparingly used her last 10-liter barrel of heating kerosene.
Though many internally displaced families have returned to their newly liberated homes in central and northern regions of the country, over 1.5 million refugees are still in camps or rented houses across Iraq, the majority of them in Kurdish controlled territories.
According to Iraq’s Immigration Minister Darbaz Muhammad, nearly 1,650,000 internally displaced people (IDP) have so far returned to their liberated areas in Iraq since mid-2016, which is more than half the number of people forced from their homes by the ISIS war.
“My monthly flour ration is about 15 kilos and I have seven children,” said Salah Fatih, adding that both bread and heating fuel are desperately needed to survive the camps.
About 600,000 IDPs are in Kirkuk, according to Kurdistan Regional Government statistics from November 2016.
“No one really owns 5 kilos of flour here and we don’t have money to buy kerosene either,” he told Rudaw.
Provincial authorities in Kirkuk say their 30,000 barrels of refined oil per day do not correspond to the staggering demand as most households rely on kerosene to keep their homes warm in the cold seasons of the year.
“We have only one refinery in Kirkuk. It can refine 30,000 barrels a day and that includes kerosene but also gasoline and other fuels that are needed in the province. We do not even have enough fuel to meet the demand of the ordinary residents,” said Fuad Kwekha Hussein, a member of the oil and gas committee in Kirkuk.
Kirkuk province holds nearly 10 percent of Iraq’s estimated 140 billion barrels of oil, according to government and international estimates.