UNHCR launches major aid push for Iraq with 100-ton airlift to Erbil

News Stories, 20 August 2014

© UNHCR
The UNHCR-chartered Boeing 747 disgorges its vital cargo of aid after landing at Erbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region.

ERBIL, Iraq, August 20 (UNHCR) A cargo jet carrying 100 tons of emergency relief supplies landed at Erbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region on Wednesday afternoon, launching a massive UN refugee agency aid operation for hundreds of thousands of people caught in Iraq's worsening humanitarian crisis.

Aboard the Boeing 747 from Amman, Jordan were 3,300 tents, 20,000 plastic sheets, 18,500 kitchen sets and 16,500 jerry cans the first consignment in an operation that aims at bringing in 2,410 tons of aid between now and the start of September.

The aid will target living conditions for almost 500,000 displaced people in the region, many of whom are living rough in unfinished buildings, in parks or by the roadside.

Today's flight will be followed by three others from Jordan on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, carrying 100 tons each. Aid is also on its way by road and sea, with 175 trucks bringing tents, blankets, plastic tarpaulins, and household items across borders from Turkey, Jordan and Iran from UNHCR warehouses in the region and Europe.

"This is a massive logistics operation to bring in relief supplies by air, land and sea to help the hundreds of thousands of desperate people who have fled suddenly with nothing but their lives, and are now struggling to survive in harsh conditions," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.

"It's the largest single aid push we have mounted in more than a decade," Guterres said, adding that the combined volume of the emergency supplies on their way to Iraq was 11,306 cubic metres.

Iraq's escalating crisis means that the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq is now hosting more than 600,000 internally displaced civilians, including above 200,000 people who have fled the Sinjar area since early August. UNHCR is working closely with humanitarian partners and the Kurdish authorities in the region to deliver aid.

Once on the ground, many of the airlifted tents will go to Badjet Kandela, Khanke and Zakho camps in Dohuk governorate. Badjet Kandela is being expanded and the other two constructed to house the recent of influx of displaced people. Other emergency supplies will be distributed to people staying in makeshift settlements in Dohuk city, Zakho, Semel town, Akre and Zawita as well as other sites in Erbil and Suleymaniyah governorates in the coming days.

Support for this and further aid deliveries is coming from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Denmark, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the IKEA Foundation, a corporate partner.

Across Iraq, an estimated 1.2 million people have been displaced so far this year, including more than 500,000 from fighting in the Anbar region which began in January, and more than 600,000 displaced from conflicts in and around Mosul (since June) and more recently Sinjar. The majority of the newly displaced are in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

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Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to Iraq in July 2009 to offer support to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced within their own country.

During her day-long visit to Baghdad, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited a makeshift settlement for internally displaced people in north-west Baghdad where she met families displaced from the district of Abu Ghraib, located to the west of Baghdad, and from the western suburbs of the capital.

Despite the difficulties in Iraq, Jolie said this was a moment of opportunity for Iraqis to rebuild their lives. "This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives."

UNHCR estimates that 1.6 million Iraqis were internally displaced by a wave of sectarian warfare that erupted in February 2006 after the bombing of a mosque in the ancient city of Samarra. Almost 300,000 people have returned to their homes amid a general improvement in the security situation since mid-2008.

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

Iraq: Angelina Jolie Visits Displaced IraqisPlay video

Iraq: Angelina Jolie Visits Displaced Iraqis

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie recently visited internally displaced Iraqis living in an informal settlement and a formal camp at Khanke, near Dohuk. There, she heard dramatic stories of escape from the more than 20,000 Yazidis who fled Sinjar and surrounding areas last August.
Iraq: The Plight of the YazidisPlay video

Iraq: The Plight of the Yazidis

Tens of thousands of people, including ethnic Yazidis originating from the Sinjar area, have been forced to find shelter in schools and unfinished structures across northern Iraq since fleeing their homes. The UN refugee agency has been trying to help, opening camps to provide better shelter.
Iraq: Preparing for Winter in DohukPlay video

Iraq: Preparing for Winter in Dohuk

Efforts are under way in Syria, Iraq and neighbouring countries to prepare refugees and the internally displaced for winter. But UNHCR remains deeply concerned that a $58.45 million funding shortfall could leave as many as a million people out in the cold.