[The following press release was issued by the Danish Refugee Council on 12 March 2014]
The violence in Iraq`s western province of Anbar has displaced more than 340,000 individuals since late December; mostly women, children and elderly people. The Danish Refugee Council calls for humanitarian support from the international community and urges conflict parties to ensure the safe passage of staff and emergency relief to meet increasing needs of vulnerable populations.
The erupting violence has caused the displacement of some 250,000 individuals within Anbar now residing in villages, school buildings and unfinished housing projects. Other displaced populations have fled to the surrounding governorates including Baghdad, Kerbala, Erbil, Najaf, and Salahadin. Many civilians who could not flee remain trapped in their homes and the conflict areas of Anbar. Over-crowdedness in shelters and communities hosting displaced people is causing problems of inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene, adding to the general protection risks caused by the displacement.
“DRC is strongly appealing to Iraq’s security forces and armed groups to create safe passage to allow humanitarian aid reach the civilian population and ensure security of aid workers,” says Michael Bates - DRC`s Country Director in Iraq and continues, “Political tensions and the security atmosphere may heighten as attention gets driven towards the elections in April. It is therefore highly likely that a protracted and even worsening IDP situation in Iraq will follow in the coming months."
The Government of Iraq has acknowledged its responsibility to lead the emergency response but has also admitted its inadequate capacity to fully address the substantial humanitarian needs coming out of Anbar. A recent appeal from the UN estimates the humanitarian needs for IDPs and host communities requiring 100 million USD.
"Local and International NGOs and the UN are doing everything in their power but overall, the funding has been extremely limited, the humanitarian response is slow and the needs are increasing.DRC is therefore calling on the Donor Community and International Partners to see the displacement from Anbaras another humanitarian imperative that needs urgent attention," says Michael Bates.
Displacement of people in Iraq is exacerbating the weakness in the country`s socio-economic infrastructure and with a total of more than 1.1 million registered IDPs in the country; the current crisis adds to an already serious challenge. Vastly increased support from donor partners, the international community and the Government of Iraq is needed to expedite the humanitarian response to the current emergency situation in order to alleviate suffering and restore hope for the return and recovery of many who are displaced from Anbar.