Major funding gap has left Iraq on brink of ‘catastrophe,’ UN warns as new humanitarian appeal launched
Critical aid operations supporting millions of people affected by the conflict in Iraq are at risk of shutting down unless funds are made available immediately, senior United Nations warned today as they joined an international appeal for nearly $500 million to cover the immediate needs of 5.6 million Iraqis for the next six months.
“Humanitarian partners have been doing everything they can to help. But more than 50 per cent of the operation will be shut down or cut back if money is not received immediately,” Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the war-torn country said at an appeal launch at the European Parliament in Brussels.
The implications of this, Ms. Grande said, would be “catastrophic” in what is already one of the most complex and volatile crisis anywhere in the world. Humanitarian needs in Iraq are huge and growing. More than 8 million people require immediate life-saving support, a number that could reach 10 million by the end of 2015.
According to the United Nations, some 2.9 million people have been forced from their homes since January 2014. And with the conflict escalating, the UN and its non-governmental (NGO) partners have launched the Humanitarian Response Plan [HRP] asking donors for $498 million to cover the cost of providing shelter, food, water and other life-saving services over the coming six months.
The appeal aims to target 5.6 million people displaced or affected by the violence between Government forces and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Violence has already forced nearly three million people from their homes, leaving them scattered in more than 3,000 locations across the country. Human rights and rule of law are under constant assault. Mass executions, systematic rape and horrendous acts of violence are also rampant. The funding shortfall has already caused 77 frontline health clinics to close while food rations for over a million people have also been reduced.
Assistance Secretary-General, Kyung-Wha Kang delivering remarks at today’s meeting on behalf of Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, said that every one of the three million displaced people is an individual story – a child, a woman or a man.
“All segments of the Iraqi society – Yezidi, Christian, Shabak, Turkmen, Shia, Sunni and Kurd – have been affected by the violence,” he added.
“Families have had to move several times to stay one step ahead of the horrific violence sweeping across whole regions of the country. Others do not know where they can find safety, caught in a sectarian divide that is not their making,” he said.
Fighting has disrupted food supply, damaged or destroyed hospitals, and hundreds of schools are now being used as emergency shelters. Women and girls are being abducted and subjected to systematic sexual violence and enslavement. Some children have suffered the loss of their parents; others have been forced to fight or to flee for their lives.
Iraq on the brink: Voices of anguish from a nation in turmoil. Credit: UN Iraq
“While we search for solutions to end the violence, we must do everything in our power to help them. The people of Iraq need our help, now,” he said.
Also speaking today was Volker Türk, Assistance High Commissioner for Protection at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that Iraqis are “trapped by the ever-shifting maze of frontlines,” and in some places held virtually hostage by armed groups.
“The diminishing resources for survival in such situations are often accompanied by an increasing loss of hope,” Mr. Turk said. “The model of protection is truly anchored in community and provides a strong demonstration of people-to-people solidarity. It reminds us that there are opportunities in a crisis, including in displacement, where individuals may find ways to support one another around their shared experience.”
Investing in the humanitarian response, which is centred on protection and builds upon the capacities and resilience of affected communities, lays the groundwork for a peaceful future in Iraq, he added.