At a meeting in Erbil today, the oil and gas companies operating in the Kurdistan Region and leading figures from the oil services sector pledged to provide emergency relief to the large number of displaced people who have flooded into the Region in recent weeks.
Dr Ashti Hawrami, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Minister of Natural Resources, said, “Although the KRG has already allocated 10 million dollars-equivalent in fuel supplies and some 25 million dollars of capacity-building funds for emergency assistance, given the huge scale of the crisis and the number of refugees arriving daily we all need to work together to provide more urgently needed help.”
It is hoped that an additional US$50 million of funds can be raised by the companies through their own industry-wide effort. In addition to the funds already committed by the KRG, Minister Hawrami said the government would match “dollar for dollar” any contributions from the oil sector.
He added, “I am pleased that in our meeting the oil and gas companies agreed to help fund the humanitarian relief effort. Their assistance will make a big difference to the lives and well-being of the refugees and also help the communities in which they are located.”
At the meeting, Minister Hawrami, senior international oil company representatives, UNHCR officials and representatives of international NGOs discussed how to kick-start this important and urgent funding initiative.
The KRG Council of Ministers asked the Ministry of Natural Resources to put the request to the oil and gas companies, as long-term partners of the Kurdistan Region that can play a role in contributing to the relief efforts.
William Tall, head of UNHCR in the Kurdistan Region and northern Iraq, told the meeting that there were similar oil industry initiatives around the world in times of crisis, and he cited his experiences with Azerbaijan after the fall of the former communist regime.
He also commended the KRG’s efforts in responding to the refugee crisis, describing them as “exceptional.” But he explained that with the winter approaching and more refugees arriving, the situation is “not sustainable without further help.”
Current estimates by the UNHCR put the number of displace people in the Region at over 200,000, with more arriving every day. Roughly half have been accommodated in temporary camps, but a significant number have filtered into villages, towns and cities, where they are often struggling on the margins.
The KRG, international aid agencies, NGOs and local citizens have all risen to the challenges posed by such a large influx of displaced people, but much more is needed in the way of practical aid to help the Kurdistan Region cope with the scale of the crisis.