The United Nations said today that it is receiving more reports of civilian casualties and further displacement within Iraq as the conflict in Anbar province continues.
Over the last six weeks up to 300,000 Iraqis – some 50,000 families – have been displaced due to insecurity around Fallujah and Ramadi in the province, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported.
The Iraqi Government estimates that it will initially need $35 million to address humanitarian needs caused by the Anbar crisis, which began at the end of 2013, including providing food, bedding and other supplies.
UNHCR field staff report that displaced Iraqis are residing in schools, mosques and other public buildings and urgently need various humanitarian items. Pregnant women and children need medical care while all families are in need of drinking water, milk and other food aid, diapers, beds and cooking items.
“Most of the displaced have fled to outlying communities in Anbar province to escape the fighting while 60,000 persons have fled to more distant provinces,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva.
In a relief operation coordinated by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) to support the Government’s response, UNHCR has distributed more than 2,300 kits of core relief items and 175 tents in various locations across the country.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has so far distributed more than 1,250 hygiene kits and various water/sanitation supplies and plans to send more in the coming days, while UN’s partner aid organizations are also providing critically needed relief items.
“Access and roadblocks remain a challenge,” Ms. Fleming said, noting that a consignment of World Health Organization (WHO) medical supplies has reportedly been detained at an Iraqi Army checkpoint since 30 January. “Many bridges leading into the Anbar region have been destroyed and roads are blocked, complicating deliveries to communities hosting IDPs [internally displaced persons],” she said.
UNHCR added that the 300,000 new IDPs are on top of Iraq’s population of more than 1.1 million displaced persons, who have still not returned to communities wracked by violence mainly during the 2006-2008 upheaval.