Yet again, another humanitarian crisis has hit war-torn Iraq, disproportionately and negatively impacting the hungry poor, the head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today, wrapping up a two-day visit to the country, which has in recent weeks, seen violent armed groups sweep through a number of provinces sending massive numbers of desperate people fleeing for safety.
“The most vulnerable and poorest families have already experienced their share of tragedy over the last few years,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin in a press release summing up her time in Iraq, were she met families who have fled from the violence in Mosul and held high-level talks with the Kurdistan Regional Government and other officials.
“Many are displaced in very harsh conditions. Lack of services, support and insecurity is forcing them to move around – in too many cases making these families difficult to reach.”
Ms. Cousin said that in Erbil, she met with displaced people at a Kalak transit camp between Mosul and Erbil. They said in newly erected tents and makeshift shelters in 45 degrees Celsius heat, saying they fled with only the clothes on their backs.
“Only the strong and lucky, who could walk for hours in this scorching heat or those who have the means to travel by car, arrived here at the transit camp,” she said. Among them was a man from Mosul, who told her he was worried he would not be able to fast during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan in harsh conditions with little access to water, electricity and other necessities.
“The UN and the entire humanitarian community are surging staff, releasing funds and drawing on all available stocks to assist people affected by the fighting and meet the urgent growing needs,” added Ms. Cousin. WFP has said it needs $88 million for its operations in the country through the end of the year.
Also, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) today warned that the insecurity in the country could cause widespread hunger. The UN agency is calling for $12.7 million to provide support to farming families. The areas of the greatest conflict, including Nineveh, produce about one-third of the country’s wheat and barley.
Speaking on behalf of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN agencies in the country, Nickolay Mladenov, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said that as the environment becomes increasingly sectarian, the UN’s approach to dealing with the humanitarian conflict becomes very vital.
“Our assistance continues to be provided in an impartial manner to all,” he underlined.
Iraq: new IDPs map by province - as of 18 June 2014. Credits: UN Iraq