Iraq: UN refugee agency concerned over worsening crisis in Anbar Province
“There [are] reports that families are now being displaced for a second time in various locations across the province, moving westwards from previously safe locations including Al-Habaniya, Al-Falahat village, Al-Nassaf village, Al-Azragiyah village and Al-Saqlawiyah,” explained Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at a news briefing in Geneva.
He said that Fallujah remains under siege and the roads are still closed, provoking shortages of fuel, food and other basic items. Armed clashes are being reported to the north, south and east of the city, including during the 72-hour ceasefire initiated by the Iraqi Government, which has now ended.
The situation is also volatile in Ramadi, where shelling and clashes have been constant in recent days in the city and in rural neighbourhoods.
According to Mr. Edwards, due to the prevailing security situation, the inter-agency mission – formed by UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) – was forced to postpone its assessment work in the Al Qaim district, which hosts around 5,000 Syrian Refugees.
While in the Al Obaidy camp, which is part of the Al Qaim district and located approximately 450 kilometres northwest of Baghdad, the inter-agency team was able to assess the current living conditions of the 2,000 displaced persons living there in temporary houses and two collective shelters.
“The team identified many people with specific needs, particularly female-headed-households with large numbers of children. In one particular visit, three female-headed-families were cramped together in one small house with 13 children,” said Mr. Edwards.
“While the local communities generously assisted the displaced, people are still in need of food and healthcare,” he warned.
As an immediate step, UNHCR distributed 300 core relief items to the 300 families the team was able to meet during its four-day visit to Al Obaidy.
As of 6 March, the number of displaced persons in Anbar and the other governorates was approximately 380,000, or some 63,494 families. 42,059 families had been displaced in Anbar, the largest governorate in Iraq and 21,435 families had been displaced in other governorates across the county.
Mr. Edwards explained that “prolonged displacement is putting pressures on both the displaced and host communities as they begin to exhaust their resources.” UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies are receiving an increasing number of requests for humanitarian assistance and support, and shortage of shelter remains one of the most pressing issues.
On 5 March 2014, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement and the UN launched the Strategic Response Plan to address the immediate humanitarian needs of people affected by the ongoing fighting in Anbar. The plan called for $103.7 million to cover the provision of assistance to 240,000 internally displaced persons as well as host communities and those stranded in conflict-affected areas.
Mr. Edwards said that UNHCR required some $26 million to address humanitarian needs of people displaced by the crisis in Anbar over the coming six months. Those needs were currently 11 per cent funded.