Continuing conflict in Iraq's province displaces thousands, some for second time

News Stories, 7 March 2014

© UNHCR/N.Prokopchuk
This infant was caught having a nap in Al Qaim in western Anbar. He fled there with his mother and siblings to escape the violence in Anbar, which is entering a third month.

GENEVA, March 7 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Friday said the continuing fighting in western Iraq's Anbar province has forced thousands more people to move to safety. Those affected are in various locations across the province, moving westwards from previously safe locations.

"During the last week the number of displaced people in the town of Heet and surrounding areas which lies to the northwest of [the city of] Ramadi has increased by some 25,000-30,000 people," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva.

Elsewhere in Anbar, an inter-agency mission this week by UNHCR, the World Food Programme and the UN Children's Fund assessed the living conditions and the needs of displaced people living in Al-Obaidy, some 450 kilometres northwest of Baghdad in the Al Qaim area.

Due to the poor security situation, the mission was forced to postpone part of their assessment. Al Qaim district hosts some 5,000 Syrian refugees, some 2,000 of them are in camp Al Obaidy while others are in host communities. The team met with people displaced to temporary houses and two collective shelters in Al-Obaidy town.

The team members identified many with specific needs, particularly female-headed households with large numbers of children. In one home, three female-headed families were cramped together in one small house with 13 children.

While the local communities have generously assisted the displaced, people are still in need of food and health care. Families living in unfinished houses lack blankets, mattresses, cooking facilities and clothing. As an immediate step, UNHCR is distributing aid packs to 300 families the team visited.

"The humanitarian needs of the displaced are growing rapidly. Prolonged displacement is putting pressure on both the displaced and host communities as they begin to exhaust their resources," Edwards said.

UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies are receiving an increasing number of requests for humanitarian assistance and support. UNHCR and partners are continuing to conduct assessments of the humanitarian needs. At present the shortage of shelter remains one of the most pressing issues.

Close to Baghdad, the city of Fallujah remains under siege, the roads remain closed and there are reports of shortages of fuel, food and other basic items. Armed clashes have been reported in the north, south and east of Fallujah, even during a 72-hour ceasefire initiated by the government of Iraq last week.

The situation in Ramadi is also volatile. Shelling and clashes have continued in recent days in the city and in rural neighbourhoods. As the situation deteriorates in the Al-Malab, Al-Bothaib and 20th Street areas, small groups of residents have fled and headed to Heet. The local council in Heet is still welcoming those fleeing, despite the significant burden on the local infrastructure, lack of sufficient accommodation and overstretched services. The district already accommodates some 11,250 displaced families.

To the north-east of Anbar, the first UN humanitarian assistance has in the past few days reached some 200 displaced families living in dire conditions in Sulayman Beg, Salah Al-Din governorate. They fled clashes last week in the north-east of the governorate.

As of Thursday, the number of people displaced in Anbar and the other governorates of Iraq is approximately 380,000. This represents almost 64,000 families, some 42,000 of whom have been displaced in Anbar, the largest governorate in Iraq.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement and the UN launched a strategic response plan to address the immediate humanitarian needs of people affected by the fighting in Anbar. The plan calls for US$103.7 million to cover the provision of assistance to 240,000 internally displaced people as well as host communities and those stranded in conflict-affected areas.

UNHCR requires US$26.3 million to address humanitarian needs of people displaced by the crisis in Anbar over the next six months. These needs are 11 per cent funded.

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Fighting rages on in various parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with seemingly no end in sight for hundreds of thousands of Congolese forced to flee violence and instability over the past two years. The ebb and flow of conflict has left many people constantly on the move, while many families have been separated. At least 1 million people are displaced in North Kivu, the hardest hit province. After years of conflict, more than 1,000 people still die every day - mostly of hunger and treatable diseases. In some areas, two out of three women have been raped. Abductions persist and children are forcefully recruited to fight. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases have increased as the situation deteriorates and humanitarian agencies struggle to respond to the needs of the displaced.

When the displacement crisis worsened in North Kivu in 2007, the UN refugee agency sent emergency teams to the area and set up operations in several camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). Assistance efforts have also included registering displaced people and distributing non-food aid. UNHCR carries out protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs in North and South Kivu.

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Waves of fighting in eastern Democratic of the Republic since late April have displaced tens of thousands of people. Many have become internally displaced within the province, while others have fled to south-west Uganda's Kisoro district or to Rwanda via the Goma-Gisenyi crossing.

The stop-start clashes between government forces and renegade soldiers loyal to former rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda began in the province's Masisi and Walikale territories, but subsequently shifted to Rutshuru territory, which borders Uganda.

Between May 10-20, one of UNHCR's local NGO partners registered more than 40,000 internally displaced people (IDP) in Jomba and Bwesa sectors.

The IDPs are living in difficult conditions, staying in school buildings and churches or with host families. They lack food and shelter and have limited access to health facilities. Some of the displaced have reported cases of extortion, forced labour, beatings and recruitment of minors to fight.

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