Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan -- It can be hard to breathe in the Domiz refugee camp, 20km southeast of the city, with a mix of burning rubbish and raw sewage hanging heavy in the air at times. Even so, the residents of this sprawling refugee camp of roughly 30,000 seem to be settling in for the long haul. Mohammed Al Aafou, 42, took a morning tea break with the men helping him to rebuild his house in the camp. Although like everyone else he said there are no jobs to be had, after more than four years at Domiz he continues to plan for the future. "It was falling apart," he said of his old house, "so we're rebuilding it, totally."
Because it can't possibly be worse than the war he and his family ran from, Al Aafou said he is not worried about what's to come: An anticipated influx of internally displaced people (IDPs) fleeing the impending fighting in Mosul--set to start this month.
But others are worried that the worsening economic situation in Iraq's Kurdish region (IKR), coupled with the IDP crisis, will make an already bad situation worse.
"We worry about not getting jobs and not getting the same support we've been given," said Wajika Dorsen, 30, from Hasaka. "We are thankful for those who support us and this is so much better than Syria," she said, "But we worry."
According to Ramziya Zana, director of the Gender Studies and Information Organisation, an NGO that offers support and job training to IDP and refugee women, the Kurdish regional government will come under pressure to take care of the IDPs."Even UN support and funds are very slow to arrive. We are not getting the support we need from them," Zana told Al Jazeera.
There are roughly 239,000 Syrian refugees registered in Iraq's Kurdish region, and the population is expected to increase with the Mosul operation. Even if the flow of Syrian refugees to the region were to slow, the number of those in the IKR will continue to grow.
At the Domiz camp, the largest Syrian refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, there are 563 pregnant women, according to the official camp census, with entire families starting and expanding since the start of the protracted conflict in Syria in 2011. But the trend is similar in smaller camps.
In Kawergosk camp, 15km south of Erbil, Zeinab Mahmoud Sheikho, 29, is in the market with her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Haif. The youngest of three, Haif was born in a refugee camp, and much to her mother's dismay, knows only the rambling tent community housing nearly...