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Iraq: Feeding the palace poor

Iraq: Feeding the palace poor

Yesterday (Monday) World Vision began registering Iraqis sheltering in Nineweh Palace - Saddam's northernmost presidential complex - in an effort to get them food, emergency aid and proper shelter.

Dispossessed Iraqi families gathered in a former Special Republican Guard barracks section of the Mosul-based complex to register their names, the villages they had come from and other family details.

This was the start of a process designed to ensure they do not miss out on vital food supplied by the World Food Programme under the current UN Food For Oil Programme.

Some displaced families had their food stocks looted or were forced to abandon them when they fled fighting or post-conflict land disputes in their villages. Others were kicked out of their homes by landlords when they could no longer afford the rent.

One family told World Vision they had been forced to flee their village after a post-war land dispute forced them out. They lived for 20 days in the open before they found refuge in a looted palace guardhouse. They have no electricity, toilets, tapped water, or doors and windows. Unexploded ordinance left behind by the Iraqi Army is a danger to their children.

World Vision has been appointed as the agency responsible for tracking displaced Iraqis in the northern governorate of Nineweh by the International Organization for Migration.

World Food Programme staff are helping World Vision identify and register the displaced in Mosul city. World Vision will trace displaced people across Nineweh, estimated population 2.5 million.

There are homeless Iraqis living not just in Saddam Hussein's old palace but in government buildings, sports complexes and in half-complete apartment blocks.

Once registered, the displaced will be given food and other essential supplies. The IOM also has tents and kitchen kits stored in Turkey which, if needed, will be made available.

One displaced man Waleed Khalid said his Baghdad home had been bombed and then looted and his family had fled north.

"I started to run out of money. I went to the mayor's building (in Mosul) and they told me to come to the palace," he said.

World Vision Programme Officer Margaret Chilcott said: "We are learning that thousands of people are holed up in abandoned buildings...We have kick-started a process where families will get access to water, food and safe shelter."

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