Asma in the kitchen she runs

Job Center provides livelihood support for IDPs, refugees and host community in Iraq

A Job Seeker Support Center, close to Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, run by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and UN Development Programme (UNDP) reaches more than 10,000 beneficiaries, who are provided with access to sustainable livelihood opportunities and resources to build on their individual capacities and enhancing employability.


Asma’s story of displacement spans over ten years and two countries. She and her family of seven were displaced from their home in Ramadi, Iraq, to neighboring Syria in 2006 as a result of an increase in violence after the 2003 Iraq war. Due to the outbreak of civil war in Syria, she and her family returned to Anbar, Iraq, where they once again were forced to flee – this time from the Islamic State. Asma now lives in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) where 78 percent of IDPs require livelihood support to meet their basic needs. Furthermore female-headed households are one of the most vulnerable segments of the displaced population.

As the sole breadwinner of her family, Asma said she was searching for employment opportunities when she came across a brochure for the UNDP-DRC Job Seeker Support Center in Kas Nazan, close to Erbil.

“I knew what I wanted to do from the beginning and that I was the only person to support my family,” she said. “It was difficult going through the program, but the staff welcomed me.”

After interviewing with counselors at the job center, Asma enrolled in the business incubation model program. The program identifies potential entrepreneurs in the community, helps them draft business proposals, provides matching grants, and it promotes social cohesion by partnering IDPs, refugees, and host communities to capitalize on their talents.

Once she successfully completed the center’s mentorship program, Asma established a business partnership with a member of her host community and received a grant to open a business. She now runs a restaurant where she prepares delicious Iraqi and Syrian specialties and earns an income that can support her family.

Exceeding expectations

With a stated aim of providing access to sustainable livelihood opportunities for IDPs, Syrian refugees and host communities, the center has provided beneficiaries with resources to build their capacities and enhance their employability. The center has exceeded expectations by far since it opened in August 2015 by providing employment services to more than 10,000 people, some of whom came from other cities across the KRI after hearing about the project.

An assessment of the project found that 93 percent of beneficiaries surveyed, said that they were able to increase their individual employability and 71 percent reported increased income stability. In addition, 100 percent said the project overall led to better social cohesion among IDPs, refugees and members of the host communities.

To foster sustainability and a sense of community ownership of the project, DRC completed a handover of the job center in November to the local organization, Women’s Rehabilitation Organization (WRO).

DRC is a leading agency for livelihood programs across Iraq as the co-coordinating agency for the national level Emergency Livelihoods & Social Cohesion and the co-lead agency for the Livelihood Cluster. DRC has been operating in Iraq since the advent of military operations in 2003, becoming one of the first organisations to provide humanitarian assistance. The DRC Iraq team implements an integrated humanitarian response including livelihoods, focusing on integration of services, coordination at different levels, and tailoring to specific needs of vulnerable populations.