UN steps up aid to those uprooted by Iraq conflict

Fri Jun 20, 2014 12:00pm EDT
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Friday it was expanding aid to a million people driven from their homes as Islamist militants seized wide tracts of northern and western Iraq.

Many families are living in the open, in urgent need of food, water, shelter and latrines, said Jacqueline Badcock, the United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq.

"Humanitarian agencies are rapidly scaling up in the face of this unfortunate challenge," she said in a statement that appealed for access to thousands of displaced in areas held by armed factions, including the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

Insecurity and depleted fuel stocks are hampering efforts to deliver supplies, amid fears of outbreaks of measles and diarrhoeal diseases, U.N. aid agencies said.

Around 500,000 people who fled the northern city of Mosul after ISIL overran it 10 days ago have found refuge in the nearby Kurdish autonomous zone and adjoining areas in Nineveh province now largely under jihadi Islamist control.

Roughly the same number have been uprooted by fighting in Iraq's vast western province of Anbar, where Sunni Muslim jihadi militants largely hold the main towns of Falluja and Ramadi.

"The city of Falluja has remained a battleground between armed groups and the Iraqi armed forces. It has suffered extensive loss of life and major damage to homes, hospitals, schools and water installations," the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement. "Many remain without food, water, health care or adequate shelter."

Thousands have been killed in violence across Iraq since December, the ICRC said. This month, it has delivered enough wound-dressing materials for 500 patients to Falluja's main hospital and for 550 patients to three other hospitals in Iraq.   Continued...