IRAQ: Officials and agencies cannot meet needs of 150,000 IDPs

BAGHDAD, 28 June 2006 (IRIN) - Government officials say they are struggling to cope with increasing numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the country. The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) estimated on 27 June that in the past four months, 150,000 people have been displaced as a result of sectarian violence.

“Unfortunately, we have to agree that the numbers released by the UN agency in Iraq are possibly true because ongoing sectarian violence has promoted fast displacement and the numbers change dramatically every week,” says Nuridin Othman, a senior official at the Ministry of Displacement and Migration Othman. “The situation is critical and each day it is getting harder and harder to tackle the issue."

According to UNAMI, there are in fact 1.3 million displaced people in Iraq, nearly five percent of the country's total population, though most of them have moved during a period dating back 26 years. Of primary concern are those that are currently on the move and require essential supplies.

Over the past fortnight alone, 3,200 families [possibly 20,000 to 25,000 individuals] have fled Ramadi, about 100km west of Baghdad, to neighbouring towns such as Rawa and Fallujah as a result of the military operations there.

“These displaced families need urgent assistance," says Othman. "The government is not able to cope with giving them food and other essential supplies - even with the help of aid agencies.”

Ahmed Barak, a spokesperson for the Iraqi Aid Association (IAA), concurs with the government view, adding that the displaced also require urgent protection because they are in areas of total insecurity - either co-habiting with relatives or living in tents.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Sunnis are more affected by displacement than Shi'ites, but the official line is that both groups suffer equally. “Displacement is not a phenomena exclusive to any specific region, ethnicity or creed," says UNAMI. "Indeed, displacement since the 22 February bombing of the Shi’a Samarra shrine has equally affected all of Iraq's diverse communities on a nationwide basis.”

The Ministry of Migration and Displacement in partnership with UNAMI and other aid agencies is developing emergency action plans in an effort to meet the needs of these vulnerable families. In the meantime, the problem is getting worse as sectarian violence continues to rise.


Theme (s): Refugees/IDPs,


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