The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, currently on a weeklong mission to the Middle East to spotlight the plight of uprooted Iraqis, in Jordan thanked King Abdullah II for his country's generosity in hosting more than half a million of them.
António Guterres said the international community must to recognize the huge burden borne by host countries, particularly Jordan and neighbouring Syria, and do more to ease that load.
The High Commissioner, who arrived in Amman on Monday, also met Tuesday with Prime Minister Nader Dahabi and other senior officials before scheduled travel to the Syrian capital of Damascus.
UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 4.4 million Iraqis are still uprooted, including 2.4 million displaced inside Iraq and 2 million outside, mainly in Syria and Jordan. In addition, more than 41,000 non-Iraqi refugees are in Iraq, including Palestinians, Iranians, Turks and others.
The agency this year has appealed for $261 million for programmes to support the most vulnerable of the uprooted inside and outside Iraq.
UNHCR has been assisting internally displaced Iraqis, but said in a news release that getting help to many of them is “extremely difficult” because of prevailing insecurity.
Last year, UNHCR registered more than 250,000 Iraqis in neighbouring states; gave health assistance to some 210,000 cases and provided educational support in Syria, Jordan and other countries that enabled tens of thousands of refugee children to attend school. Under the 2008 appeal, UNHCR has set a target of bringing the total to 200,000 children in school by the end of this year.
In addition, the agency is providing direct assistance to vulnerable families, including a project that provides cash cards for limited monthly withdrawals. Together with the World Food Programme (WFP), UNHCR will provide food for up to 360,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria this year. In both Syria and Jordan the refugee agency is distributing items such as blankets, heaters, mattresses and other support items.
It is also conducting a resettlement programme for the most vulnerable Iraqis.