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UN Moves Quickly to Coordinate Iraq Relief Efforts

UN Moves Quickly to Coordinate Relief Efforts in Iraq After Recent Fighting in Al-qa'im

New York, May 18 2005 4:00PM

Concerned that recent deadly clashes in and around the city of Al Qa'im in western Iraq have sparked "the beginnings of a humanitarian situation," the United Nations has swung to action, coordinating the emergency response to assist families that have reportedly fled the city for the surrounding desert.

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) are directing from Baghdad the work of relief agencies delivering initial assistance and assessing needs of some 2,000 families while monitoring returns to Al Qa'im now that the fighting in the area appears to have ended. Agencies are also pre-positioning food and other items in the region to expedite distribution to the city once access there is more reliable.

The UN and its partners have urged all concerned to respect the right for humanitarian space and the human rights of the civilians, and to continue to facilitate the access of humanitarian aid to those in need.

Last week's fierce fighting in and around Al Qa'im reportedly sent the terrified families seeking refuge in neighbouring towns such as Heet, Haditha, Anah, Rawa, Al-Ubaydi and the Akashat Phosphate Compound, or into the surrounding desert. Some internally displaced persons (IDPs) are said to have sought refuge as far away as Fallujah and Baghdad.

Water systems for the affected regions are reportedly operational where electricity is available, and 130,000 litres of water is being trucked daily to the Akashat Phosphate Compound.

The shortage of ambulances to evacuate severe cases from Al Qa'im is of concern, as the hospital's surgery facilities are reportedly not properly functional, the UN said. The agencies say that examinations for elementary and secondary school students have reportedly been postponed, and in some villages the schools, as well as other community facilities such as mosques, are providing refuge for IDPs.

The UN said families continue to return, although exact numbers were not yet available. Those who sought security in the desert were returning faster than those who went to villages. Agencies were working with their regular counterparts and partners to ensure that necessary items such as health kits and other non-food items stored elsewhere in the country were being made available for distribution to affected populations.


ENDS

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