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Insecurity In Iraq Undermines UN Refugee Work

Insecurity In Iraq Undermines UN Refugee Work As ‘Needs Get Bigger And Bigger’

The United Nations refugee agency said today “the dire security situation” and upsurge in fighting in Iraq have further undermined its capacity to operate effectively inside the country, “where the needs just get bigger and bigger.”

But despite the difficulties the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was distributing emergency relief for tens of thousands of people who have fled the embattled city of Fallujah, thanks to the efforts of many local Iraqi aid workers who remain in place.

The agency did not have exact figures on those who have fled, most of them now living in temporary camps, mosques or with families, but said estimates put the number at more than 50,000.

“The dire security situation at the moment, with the likely possibility of kidnappings, has in recent days led to the relocation of many international NGO (non-governmental organization) staff from the south and centre of Iraq,” said Abdi Aziz Osman, who oversees UNHCR’s operations from Amman, Jordan.

“It is clear that the recent developments further undermine UNHCR’s capacity to operate effectively inside Iraq, where the needs just get bigger and bigger,” he added.

In cooperation with NGOs like Première Urgence, Islamic Relief and Intersos, UNHCR has recently distributed more than 6,500 blankets, over 1,100 cooking stoves, 3,000 mattresses, 1,000 plastic tarpaulins, 1,000 female hygiene kits, and 375 jerry cans to displaced people. Five medical kits with basic supplies for more than 50,000 people have been distributed around Baghdad and Najaf to the south.

Distributing even this limited aid has not been easy, as most relief agencies have withdrawn expatriate workers from the centre and south, but many local Iraqi aid workers continue to oversee some projects. UNHCR said.

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