Escalating fighting and sectarian violence are forcing hundreds of families in Iraq to flee their homes on a daily basis, aid agencies say.
According to a report released on Sunday by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), an estimated 822,810 Iraqis are now displaced within their country.
Muhammad Abdul-Yassin, 39, was forced to leave his home nine months ago after continuous fighting near his home and being targeting by militias. He said he had to change his place of residence more than four times.
“There are no safe places in Iraq. Militants or insurgents find you wherever you are,” Abdul-Yassin said.
“Each time we arrived in a new camp, dozens of other families arrived with us. Most of the places are full to bursting and some of the displaced families are forced to sleep rough on the ground without tents until aid agencies can give them some protection and food. In the camp where we are staying now, we were forced to sleep in the open air for three days and drink dirty water because the aid agencies couldn’t reach us,” he said.
|There are no safe places in Iraq. Militants or insurgents find you wherever you are.|
“Displaced families in Anbar, Baghdad, Karbala, Najaf and all the southern provinces are suffering from a shortage of potable water,” a spokesperson for the Iraq Aid Association (IAA) said. “Some are drinking contaminated water and children can be seen nearly starving, requiring urgent water and food.”
The UNHCR report confirmed the above, adding that there was an urgent need for shelter, food and non-food supplies, as well as jobs.
Aid agencies say they face difficulties accessing IDPs many of whom face severe water shortages.
Unemployment remains the main cause of growing poverty among IDPs, according to Professor Jamal Obeidi, a displacement expert from Baghdad University and an analyst in the Ministry of Displacement and Migration.
“If at least one person from each [displaced] family was working, they would have been earning money and been able to buy food for their families, despite the insecurity. The lack of jobs has put these families in the worst conditions,” Obeidi said.
Income and employment are reported as priority issues for 65 percent of IDPs, according to the UN-affiliated International Organisation of Migration (IOM).
Lack of food
Forty seven percent of displaced families in Iraq have no access to the national food programme, according to the country’s Ministry of Trade and the UNHCR.
“Lack of security has prevented families getting to warehouses and many others have moved to southern provinces which have been tardy in registering the newly displaced. Some areas cannot cope and lack food to give to the population,” said Maruan Muhannad, a senior official in the Ministry of Trade.
Obeidi recommended to the Ministry of Trade that it organise convoys to deliver food parcels directly to IDPs in displacement areas. “They could take the warehoused food which has no owner, fill a convoy and deliver directly to such families.”
“Our children are sick because they do not receiving enough food. They are eating badly because we cannot get our share of the national food programme since we got displaced a year ago and have lost our documents,” said May Kareem, 34, a displaced mother of three who lives on the outskirts of the capital.
“We cannot get food and cannot leave our place. If the government really wants to help, they could deliver food parcels to us,” she said.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions