UN: 5.2 million Iraqis in need of assistance for winter

As winter nears, about 5.2 million people in Iraq are in need of humanitarian assistance, the United Nations said on Monday.

Senior officials from the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) warned that an “immense” humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Iraq and called for greater resources from the international community to help with the upcoming winter season.

Winterization and shelter are among the top priorities, the officials stressed, along with more resources to ensure a wider coverage for the 800,000 people who are in urgent need of shelter.

“800,000 people (in Iraq) are in urgent need of shelter and 5.2 million are in need of assistance in winter,” said the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Geneva director Rashid Khalikov at a joint press conference on Iraq with the OIC.

Winterization activities include distribution of core relief items, blankets, kerosene, heating stoves, jerrycans, mats, and insulation to make tents warmer and more resistant to the winter.

“1.8 million people have been displaced since January 2014 – half of them are children,” added Khalikov.

Khalikov said that there were 2.2 million people in Iraq living in areas controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

He estimated that ISIS controlled about one-third of Iraq. ISIS militants also occupy large areas of Syria.

“We have just launched the Strategic Response Plan last Thursday which requests $2.2 billion to cover the humanitarian and protection needs of 5.2 million people by the end of December 2015. To date, more than $600 million have been contributed,” Khalikov said.

“Unfortunately, the sentiment in Iraq is that this crisis will not end in the near future,” the Organization of Islamic Cooperation assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Hisham Youssef, said in the joint press conference.

There are 400 schools in the Kurdish region in Iraq that have postponed the start of the school year as they are being used as temporary shelters for displaced Iraqis, Youssef said.

Noting that both Khalikov and Youssef had visited the Turkish/Iraqi border where refugees were crossing into Turkey, Youssef said, “On a daily basis – around 12,000 refugees so far in the last two weeks or so” had entered into Turkey from Iraq.

Source: Al-Akhbar English

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