UN refugee chief in Middle East to urge increased assistance for uprooted Iraqis
António Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has traveled to the Middle East in a bid to raise awareness of the millions of Iraqis displaced by violence and host countries that are helping them.
Mr. Guterres is in Amman, Jordan, today to meet with senior Government officials, visit UNHCR's registration centre and confer with a group of Iraqi refugees, before travelling to Damascus, Syria, this evening.
During his week-long mission, the Commissioner hopes to “assure governments in the region of our continued commitment to and engagement in efforts to ease the plight of those displaced in the region and beyond,” UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva.
Additionally, Mr. Guterres will emphasize the ongoing need for resources and global support and will thank governments such as Jordan and Syria for the generosity they have shown to Iraqi refugees.
According to UNHCR and its partners, out of Iraq's total population of 26 million, some 4.4 million are displaced, with 2.4 million uprooted within the war-torn nation's borders and 2 million in other countries. Over 40,000 non-Iraqis – including Palestinians, Iranians and Turks – are taking refuge inside Iraq.
This year, the agency hopes to raise $261 million to assist the most vulnerable of displaced Iraqis, both in and out of their home country, through programmes such as counselling, provision of household and shelter items; protection and legal help; and support for camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). It also wishes to send 200,000 Iraqi refugee children to school in Syria, Jordan and other host countries through the appeal.
For UNHCR – which operates within Iraq with some 30 local and internal staff in collaboration with Iraqi aid agencies – helping the displaced has proven to be difficult given the insecurity plaguing much of the country.
Last year, the agency registered over a quarter of a million Iraqis in nearby countries, provided health services to more than 200,000 people and directly aided vulnerable families through initiatives such as giving cash cards to households headed by females, widows and people with disabilities.
In a joint effort with the UN World Food Programme (WFP), UNHCR will feed up to 360,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria this year.
“We will also continue our resettlement programme for the most vulnerable Iraqis,” Ms. Pagonis noted. Last year, UNHCR submitted over 21,000 Iraqi resettlement cases to more than one dozen governments for consideration.