UNHCR in major air, land and sea humanitarian aid push into northern Iraq

News Stories, 19 August 2014

© UNHCR/E.Colt
Workers unload trucks laden with hundreds of tents for families displaced by the recent fighting in Iraq. Shelter is a priority for the displaced, many of who are living rough in unfinished buildings, schools, mosques, churches and parks.

ERBIL, Iraq, August 19 (UNHCR) As it prepares to ramp up its response to the population displacement in northern Iraq, the UN refugee agency is working closely with the authorities in Iraq's Kurdistan region to meet the immense challenges of helping the tens of thousands who have sought shelter there.

Barring delays, the stepped up air, road and sea operation will start with a four-day airlift using Boeing 747s from Aqaba in Jordan to Erbil, followed by road convoys from Turkey and Jordan, and sea and land shipments from Dubai via Iran over the next 10 days. Included in the initial aid shipments are 3,300 tents, 20,000 plastic sheets, 18,500 kitchen sets, and 16,500 jerry cans.

Some 200,000 people have made their way to Iraqi Kurdistan since early August, when the city of Sinjar and neighbouring areas were seized by armed groups. "The number of displaced people flowing [from Syria] into Duhok [province] across the Peshkabour border has slowed in the past week from thousands per day to a few hundred," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said in Geneva. "All still require our support," he added.

Iraq's current humanitarian challenges are immense. While most of the displaced are still living rough in schools, mosques, churches, unfinished buildings and elsewhere, UNHCR has been pitching hundreds of family tents every day.

Currently, almost a dozen sites are open or about to open in Iraqi Kurdistan's Dohuk and Erbil provinces. These are likely to be boosted by additional camps being set up by the International Humanitarian Partnership with contributions from Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

"At this stage we envisage there being 12-14 sites in all with capacity for 140,000 people," said the UNHCR spokesman, adding that technical staff were currently assessing additional possible camp sites identified by the Kurdistan Regional Government to determine their suitability and to prioritize locations.

The needs are not confined to the Kurdistan region. There are other camps or sites in other provinces where displaced people have gathered, including in Sulaymaniyah, Diyala and Kirkuk. The Iraqi government has also set up three centres for the displaced in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the stepped up UNHCR aid push due to start on Wednesday is aimed at helping close to 500,000 people who have been forced to flee their homes amid the deteriorating situation in the north.

The major focus is on improving living conditions for the displaced in the region, particularly people without shelter or housing. Conditions remain desperate for those without access to suitable shelter, people struggling to find food and water to feed their families, and those without access to primary medical care.

"Many are still coming to grips with the tragedy they've been through in recent weeks fleeing homes with nothing, and many trying to cope with the loss of loved ones. Emergency support is an urgent need that we are trying to meet," UNHCR's Edwards said.

Inside Syria, UNHCR continues to help Yazidi people fleeing the Sinjar area across the border. As of Tuesday, there were an estimated 8,000 people at the Newroz camp, about 60 kilometres from the Iraqi border, plus an estimated 3,000 who have moved to Yazidi villages in and around the towns of Malkia, Qahtania, Amuda, Derbassia.

Others who were staying at the Newroz camp last week have returned to Iraq to reunite with their families. UNHCR is continuing to help with providing transport for the refugees to and from the camp and is flying in more aid from its warehouses in Damascus. The first of six flights arrived in Qamishli last night from Damascus, and the mattresses and electric fans are being delivered to the refugees today, to help improve conditions in the heat.

UNHCR has now provided shelter and relief items to more than 210,000 people. It has also provided over 80,000 displaced people with protection monitoring and needs assessments, and nearly 3,500 individuals have been approved for cash assistance, with some already receiving it. Legal assistance will be provided to vulnerable families to ensure they can access their rights as Iraqi citizens, with referrals being made for those with specific assistance needs. Many also fled without documents, and UNHCR is helping them obtain new ones.

An estimated 1.2 million Iraqis have been displaced so far in 2014, including some 600,000 people uprooted by the Anbar province crisis which began in January, and 600,000 displaced from conflicts in and around Mosul and more recently Sinjar, since August.

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Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

Displaced by Fresh Fighting in North Kivu

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.

UNHCR and other major aid organizations plan to distribute food, medicine and other aid. More than 300,000 people have been forcibly displaced in North and South Kivu since the start of the year, according to UN figures.

Displaced by Fresh Fighting in North Kivu

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

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.

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

Internally Displaced in Chad

In scenes of devastation similar to the carnage across the border in Darfur, some 20 villages in eastern Chad have been attacked, looted, burned and emptied by roving armed groups since 4 November. Hundreds of people have been killed, many more wounded and at least 15,000 displaced from their homes.

Some 7,000 people have gathered near Goz Beida town, seeking shelter under trees or wherever they can find it. As soon as security permits, UNHCR will distribute relief items. The UN refugee agency has already provided newly arrived IDPs at Habila camp with plastic sheeting, mats, blankets and medicine. The agency is scouting for a temporary site for the new arrivals and in the meantime will increase the number of water points in Habila camp.

The deteriorating security situation in the region and the effect it might have on UNHCR's operation to help the refugees and displaced people, is of extreme concern. There are 90,000 displaced people in Chad, as well as 218,000 refugees from Darfur in 12 camps in eastern Chad.

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Internally Displaced in Chad

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