UNHCR delivers its one biggest aid pushes to northern Iraq

ERBIL (CIHAN)- In response to the deteriorating situation in northern Iraq, UNHCR launched this week one of its largest aid pushes aimed at helping nearly half a million people who have been forced to flee their homes.

Barring last-moment delays, an air, road and sea operation began on Wednesday (20 Aug), starting 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.

The major focus is on improving living conditions for the displaced in the region, particularly people without shelter or housing.

UNHCR Spokesperson Edward Colt said “the needs are absolutely massive right now. We have had 1.2 million people displaced in this country since January. Hundreds of thousands just in the last few weeks alone, so in the next 10 days we will be bringing some 2500 tons of aid sending it out to those in need. And again they are in need because we see it every day, people who are living in churches, mosques, by the side of the road, in schools, in unfinished buildings.”

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.

Included in the initial aid shipments are 3,300 tents, 20,000 plastic sheets, 18,500 kitchen sets, and 16,500 jerry cans. Support for this and further aid deliveries is coming from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the US, the UK, Japan, Denmark, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and IKEA – a UNHCR corporate partner.

Edward Colt stressed “we wish that we could say that we could just open up a camp over night, or get aid to the people overnight, but that’s just not the way it works, this is a massive operation, a major undertaking. Again considering how many people there are, this is going to take time. So we expect that in the next days and weeks, we are going to reach hundreds of thousands of people across Iraq.”

On the plane today – tents, kitchen sets, jerry cans for water, and plastic sheeting. Three more loads will arrive in the next three day the start of a massive air, land and sea operation to get aid to the Iraqi people.

The focus is on improving living conditions for more than a half million people. Just last week thousands were crossing into Iraq’s Northern Region of Kurdistan every day bringing the total number of displaced to well over 600,000.

Meanwhile, inside Iraq, UNHCR is already working closely with regional authorities in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region where at least half the displaced have settled, some 200,000 of them since early August when the city of Sinjar and neighbouring areas were seized by armed groups. The number of displaced people flowing into Duhok across the Peshkabour border has slowed in the past week from thousands per day to a few hundred. All still require our support.