The UN refugee agency has opened its most recent camp for internally displaced persons in Iraq’s restive Anbar province – host to the largest number of 3.2 million Iraqis uprooted across the country and where more than 250,000 civilians have fled their homes over the past six months.
The new “Marzaki camp is strategically located close to the bridge connecting Anbar and Baghdad provinces so that residents can have access to safety in case conflict lines move closer to the camp,” said Bruno Geddo, Representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Iraq.
“Displaced people scattered throughout the area in poor living conditions will now be able to properly settle down and benefit from medical and other services close by in Baghdad,” Mr. Geddo said in a press release issued in the Iraqi capital.
According to the agency, the new camp that opened Monday can provide shelter to some 3,000 displaced Iraqis who have been living in schools, unfinished buildings or staying with relatives around Ameriyat al-Fallujah in Anbar, which has become a safe haven for uprooted Iraqis in the province.
More than 250,000 civilians are estimated to have fled Ramadi since April, with the majority staying inside Anbar province itself living with host families, in informal settlements, unfinished buildings, schools or renting apartments.
Many of those fleeing Anbar are being denied access into Baghdad province due to security-driven restrictions and in recent months, thousands of Iraqis have been stranded for days on the Anbar side of the bridge, often staying in dire conditions without enough food or proper shelter, the agency said.
Among Markazi camp’s new residents is 23-year-old Rawa, her husband and three children, who fled Ramadi four months ago.
“Lacking a sponsor, Rawa’s family has not been granted access to Baghdad though her husband Mohammed who suffers from serious eye problems, is allowed to cross the bridge to seek medical treatment in the city,” according to the refugee agency.
“In any event, we wouldn’t be able to afford living there,” Rawa was quoting as saying.
There are currently some 3.2 million internally displaced Iraqis spread across 3,000 different locations across the country, according to the refugee agency, adding that Anbar province hosts the largest number of those uprooted – some 580,000 or 18 percent of the total displaced population.
The humanitarian situation is worsening dramatically as the crisis in Iraq has accelerated since last year, when militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL] took over large portions of Iraq.
UN humanitarian officials have warned that 10 million Iraqis, or a quarter of the population, are going to need humanitarian aid by year’s end amid “dramatically” worsening conditions that are forcing many people to leave their homeland because they no longer see a future inside their country.