New report urges donors to boost humanitarian aid

Aid activists hope a new report on the dire conditions of eight million Iraqis will open the eyes of the world to a looming humanitarian crisis and push the international community to help.

"We have issued several recommendations to the Iraqi government and the UN and called on involved countries to take action in order to avoid a severe disaster," Sasra Mofarah, executive coordinator of the Non-governmental organisation Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI), told IRIN on 1 August in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

NCCI is a network of about 80 international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and 200 Iraqi NGOs. It issued a detailed report on the humanitarian needs of Iraqis on 30 July. The same day, international humanitarian aid groups warned of an imminent humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq if swift action is not taken.

"Everybody is talking about death and bombing, but the world is forgetting the suffering of the living, whose basic needs are to be met," Mofarah said.

''Nearly 20 billion dollars were spent on reconstruction but we have not seen any benefit. Iraqis would be in a much better position if a fraction of these funds had helped provide them with clean water, electricity and other basic needs.''

NCCI was set up in Baghdad in 2003 to help NGOs assess and meet the needs of the Iraqi population.

Mofarah said international efforts should be focused on improving living conditions of Iraqis. "Nearly 20 billion dollars were spent on reconstruction but we have not seen any benefit. Iraqis would be in a much better position if a fraction of these funds had helped provide them with clean water, electricity and other basic needs," he told IRIN.

Out of the eight million mentioned in the report, four million people are “food-insecure and in dire need of different types of humanitarian assistance”, said the report.

At least two million displaced people within Iraq are in urgent need of medical and economic assistance, it said, adding that there were also some two million refugees scattered throughout the Middle East.

“Fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world”

"This is the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world," said the report.

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Activists believe the international community must take a critical look at their activities in Iraq and work on altering their strategy to meet the most urgent demands.

"The UN is required to have more presence in Iraq in order to widen its outreach in areas that have been neglected," said an official from OXFAM, one of the NGOs involved in the report, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

The official believes that funds allocated for Iraq should be re-channeled into humanitarian aid rather than into rebuilding and development.

"We hope our report will be accepted by all sides and acted upon for the sake of millions of innocent people who need our help.” The report is the first of its kind that gives what she described as "comprehensive" details about the needs of Iraqis, mainly inside Iraq.

The study highlighted the plight of Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries, urging more help, but it did not go into detail about their needs.


Photo: UNHCR
A map showing the numbers of Iraqis who have fled to neighbouring countries, according to UNHCR, as of 12 April 2007

"We opted to focus on the situation inside Iraq, but hopefully in the future a similar report will be prepared on refugees around the world," said the official.

After the US-led invasion in 2003, many Iraqis fled to neighbouring countries, mainly Jordan and Syria, but they faced a different challenge there - finding work.

Syria is said to be hosting nearly 1.2 million Iraqis, Jordan is home to 700,000 and tens of thousands moved to Lebanon, Egypt and other parts of the Arab world.

Jordan and Syria have said they badly need international aid to help them cope with the situation.

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