Sustained funding and support will be vital if the United Nations and its partners are to continue assisting the millions of Iraqis affected by the ongoing crisis in the country, particularly as winter approaches, the world body's top humanitarian official said on Sunday.
Addressing reporters in Baghdad, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos highlighted the very serious humanitarian crisis resulting from the surge in violence between armed groups and Government forces which has left 1.8 million people internally displaced and hundreds of thousands in need of assistance.
“Some families have been displaced multiple times and have been left terrified by what has happened to them,” she stated. “Winter is fast approaching and there is a huge amount of work needed to ensure that families have protection from the cold.”
During her visit to the country, Ms. Amos visited the Khanke camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Dohuk, one of the largest in the country.
“I heard horrendous stories of violence and brutality from 'Da'ash' on ordinary children, women and men,” she said, using another name for the armed group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
She added that as the international community works together with the Government to tackle the rising levels of conflict and brutality across Iraq and also Syria being meted out by 'Da'ash' and other armed groups, it is important to also remember the humanitarian impact.
Ms. Amos, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, noted that the Kurdistan region of Iraq has now received more than 850,000 IDPs since the beginning of the year. One in every four Iraqis displaced since January has sought refuge in Dohuk Governorate.
“The influx has created a massive shelter crisis, with more than half of these families sheltering in parks and other open areas, on the sides of highways, in unfinished buildings, in religious buildings and in schools,” she said. “With more than 650 schools in Dohuk Governorate now hosting IDPs, thousands of Kurdish school children did not start school on 10 September as scheduled.”
In collaboration with the Kurdish Regional Government, the UN is finalizing an operational plan to meet urgent shelter and other needs over the next two months, said Ms. Amos.
She pledged that the UN and all its partners – including local civil society organizations – will continue to focus on providing life-saving assistance ahead of the winter.
“The needs are enormous. A key factor in covering a significant part of the needs in this humanitarian crisis will be: the restoration of payment of salaries; the dispatching of medical supplies through the central system and; and the resumption of the Public Distribution System for food.
“These actions will greatly contribute to stabilizing the humanitarian situation. Sustained funding and support will be needed in the months ahead.”