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Humanitarian Assistance and Social Safety Nets in Protracted Crises: A Case Study of Iraq

January 2020 — By Safwan Aziz Khan, Mauro Clerici

This case study aims to contextualize cash assistance in a protracted humanitarian crisis like Iraq and how it can be used to transition to social protection in the long run. Humanitarian aid in the country is likely to
continue to meet the needs of the most vulnerable population, especially those who have been affected by displacement. Yet, it is also recognized that Iraq is a middle-income country for which humanitarian aid cannot be a replacement for a social safety net that would help reduce socioeconomic vulnerabilities over the long-term.

Given the protracted nature of the crisis in Iraq, cash assistance has assumed a growing significance. Already, cash assistance is being used across humanitarian sectors, and there is increasing emphasis both
in the literature as well as from field staff about its efficacy in meeting humanitarian objectives. However, it is also important to understand the limitations of humanitarian aid, which makes it imperative to create
parallel linkages with social protection schemes that can provide sustained support to the most vulnerable people.

Current MPCA programming in Iraq is aiming to fill this gap, through facilitating potential transitions to durable solutions for those in protracted vulnerability. The new vulnerability assessment model
developed for determining eligibility for humanitarian MPCA is methodologically aligned with poverty assessment models used by the World Bank. This alignment has helped create a humanitarian assessment
method that can be used to identify vulnerable households for potential referrals to various social protection schemes, including those administered by the government for poverty reduction.

The study proceeds as follows: the first section discusses the nature of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and why it has necessitated a long-term approach to humanitarian aid in the country. The second section
discusses how a long-term approach is being adopted in humanitarian MPCA programming in Iraq, through an assessment tool that can be used for referrals to long-term support for the most vulnerable people, especially those affected by displacement. The third section concludes, with recommendations and way forward to strengthen humanitarian-social safety net linkages.