INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations' humanitarian agencies are rushing support to thousands of Iraqis fleeing a flare-up in hostilities throughout the country's Anbar Governate, the Organization confirmed.
In a press release issued earlier this morning, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that more than 90,000 people were fleeing the city of Ramadi and surrounding areas and were moving, on foot, towards Khaldiya, Ameriya al Faullujah and Baghdad.
“Our top priority is delivering life-saving assistance to people who are fleeing-- food, water and shelter are highest on the list of priorities,” explained Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the United Nations in Iraq.
“Seeing people carrying what little they can and rushing for safety is heart-breaking,” Ms. Grande continued. “We are very worried about people's safety; the situation is dramatic and only urgent action can save lives.”
According to OCHA, the UN's humanitarian agencies have moved “quickly” to provide assistance for those in need.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has begun distributing immediate response rations, or IRRs, sufficient for three days to over 41,000 people in Ramadi and over 8,000 newly displaced in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has distributed core relief item kits to approximately 1,000 families in Ameriya al Faullujah and Baghdad and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is similarly distributing rapid response mechanism kits to cover the immediate needs of 85,000 people.
For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) is assisting Iraq's Ministry of Health with front-line services.
Amid ongoing fighting between Iraqi Government forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and continuing sectarian tensions across society, the Middle Eastern country is facing a period of immense peace and security challenges.
OCHA reported that at least 2.7 million Iraqis have been displaced since January 2014, including 400,000 from Anbar Governate alone, making the Iraq crisis one of the most complex humanitarian emergencies in the world today.
Funding shortfalls, however, have added to the complexity of the humanitarian response. The UN has observed that in the next few months 60 per cent of programmes supported by the Organization's humanitarian partners are slated to be curtailed or shut-down unless funding is received.
“We are doing what we can to help but the humanitarian operation in Iraq is severely underfunded,” Ms. Grande warned.
“We're asking everyone who can, to help contribute financially to the operation.”