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Read this article in: عربي

IRAQ-JORDAN: Top UN official highlights “gravity” of humanitarian situation

AMMAN, 4 April 2008 (IRIN) - UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes has told a press conference in Amman: "I want to highlight the gravity of the humanitarian situation in Iraq."

[Read this report in Arabic]

The gradual degradation in health services that began during the international sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s as well as more recent insecurity and instability had helped aggravate the suffering of civilians, he said.

At least four million people do not have enough food while around 40 percent of the 27.5 million population do not have access to clean drinking water, and 30 percent do not have access to reasonable health services. Most of the increasing number of internally displaced people have little or no access to proper health care, food assistance, sanitation and other services, he said.

A multi-billion dollar appeal was launched by UN humanitarian agencies in February seeking US$265 million. So far the international community has committed to $42 million and a further $163 million has been pledged by donors, according to the latest figures released by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The main funding needs are for food ($96 million); housing ($36 million); health and nutrition ($31 million); and water and sanitation ($20 million).

Holmes also had talks with government officials about the roughly half a million Iraqi asylum-seekers in the kingdom, noting that the UN agency is not encouraging Iraqis to return to their homeland for now. He conceded that host countries will have to endure the burden of Iraqi refugees for a long period. “We recognise the burden of the Jordanian and Syrian governments to host Iraqis and I have assured our support to both countries in helping, but without creating a parallel structure."

Meanwhile in Basra the humanitarian situation is said to be improving after recent fighting. David Shearer, the humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said 70 percent of the city was getting electricity; some 80-90 percent of taps were functioning again; and hospitals were well-stocked with medicines.

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Theme (s): Aid Policy, Early Warning, Health & Nutrition, Migration, Refugees/IDPs, Water & Sanitation,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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