The first flight in a new UNHCR airlift aimed at providing winter aid to Iraqis displaced by conflict this year has landed in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region. The first of seven planned flights from Pakistan touched down at Erbil International Airport at 2345 local time (2045 GMT) on Thursday, carrying 3,600 tent insulation kits. The kits, comprising polystyrene flooring and fiber insulation for tent walls, will be distributed in camps across Iraq.
Six more cargo flights are scheduled to arrive before 12 December, bringing a total of 25,000 insulation kits to Iraq from Lahore, where a major producer is located.
"Time is growing short," warns UNHCR Regional Director Amin Awad. With temperatures now dropping across Iraq, we must get this essential support to the most vulnerable Iraqi displaced immediately."
Latest figures now indicate that around 2 million Iraqis have been displaced since January. More than 60,000 people are now living in eight tented camps, and new camps are being constructed to house more than 300,000 others. Currently, as many as 700,000 people are living in unfinished or abandoned buildings, schools, religious centres, and even in parks.
While UNHCR, the central Government in Baghdad, the regional government in Kurdistan, and dozens of aid agencies are working to provide safe and warm shelter to all in need, challenges of time and scale loom ahead. UNHCR and other organizations are also providing additional winter relief in-situ, for those living in substandard housing who will not be moving to camps.