At a high-level meeting yesterday on the margins of the 70th United Nations General Assembly, the United States of America, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called for greater engagement from the international community on the dire humanitarian crisis in Iraq.
“The humanitarian crisis in Iraq has received far too little attention given the enormity of the needs,” said the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Assistant Secretary-General, Ambassador Hesham Youssef.
“Millions of people have been affected by terrible violence, displacement and suffering. The Government of Iraq is doing everything it can to provide assistance, but the needs are simply too great. They need our help. The world must stand in solidarity with the people of Iraq during this time of great need.”
Since January 2014, approximately 3.2 million Iraqis have been internally displaced across the country by conflict. Tens of thousands have fled to neighbouring countries and Europe, with many more contemplating the dangerous journey out of growing desperation.
All communities in Iraq have suffered. Members of religious and ethnic minorities have been directly targeted, as have women and girls. Conflict has fueled gender-based violence, including the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. Three million children did not attend school this year. Over four million people are in critical need of access to clean water.
“With multiple crises demanding the world’s attention, we are grateful to donors that have generously provided $359 million in support of the Iraqi people since January,” said the Emergency Relief Coordinator and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien.
“However, our current appeal is only 40 per cent funded. Our response plan for Iraq represents the bare minimum we need to help people to survive, be safe and have hope.”
Persistent funding shortfalls have already caused interruptions in relief activities this year. In May, the UN was forced to sharply reduce food rations for more than one million Iraqis. In July, aid organizations suspended support for 184 health facilities due to underfunding.
Humanitarian programmes in Iraq are again at risk of closing, with 83 programmes providing critical healthcare, clean water and food assistance due to run out of money by December. If these programmes close, the results would be catastrophic, particularly as the Government and aid agencies work to address a recent outbreak of cholera.
“Over eight million Iraqi men, women and children require urgent humanitarian assistance,” said U.S. Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Sarah Sewall. “Today, we are announcing an additional contribution of $56 million, bringing U.S. humanitarian assistance for Iraqis to nearly $534 million over the last two years.
We urge the international community to join us in supporting vulnerable Iraqis by making financial contributions to the UN humanitarian appeal for Iraq. Yes, the global demand for crisis response today is staggering, but this is not an excuse for paralysis. It is rather a call for leadership – one we must all answer by doing more to help the millions of Iraqis in desperate need.”