October 16, 2014 / 2:03 PM / in 3 years

Iraq, Syria refugees from Islamic State get winter aid kits: agency

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Thousands of refugees in Iraq and Syria, fleeing attacks by Islamic State, will be given emergency winter kits to help them cope with the approach of cold, rainy weather, an international aid agency said on Thursday.

The number of civilians forced to leave their homes is still rising as a result of IS attacks on Iraq’s Anbar province and the Syrian town of Kobani on the Turkish border, the International Rescue Committee said.

Thousands of families fleeing the violence and their fear of IS control will be provided with blankets, mattresses, plastic tarpaulin sheeting and warm clothing, it said.

New arrivals at refugee camps showed “bewilderment, desperation, exhaustion, anger, fear of an uncertain future,” an IRC official said.

Fighters of Islamic State, the militant Sunni group, seized the towns of Kubaisa and Hit in Iraq’s western Anbar province in early October as part of its drive to consolidate its control of towns west of the region’s capital, Ramadi.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said almost 180,000 people had fled from Hit and surrounding areas in the past week, while 5,400 Syrians have entered Iraq from Kobani, with a further 15,000 expected to follow in the coming days.

The IRC-managed Arbat refugee camp in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, is home to 3,000 Syrian refugees, and is preparing to take in a further 5,000 fleeing Kobani this week, according to Anthony Sinnott, IRC country director for Iraq.

He said the IRC would help people who had been “thrust into primitive conditions of existence” to adapt to the severe winter conditions.

“For the newly arrived, there is a mix of a sense of bewilderment, desperation, exhaustion, anger, and fear of an uncertain future,” Sinnott told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“With the rainy, cold and windy winter coming in the north of Iraq, we are ramping efforts to fulfil the immediate needs of the refugees when they arrive, such as food, water, clothing, shelter.”

Refugees who had settled into life at camps often volunteered to work alongside aid workers and help the newcomers find their way to shelter and understand the various services on offer, Sinnott said in a telephone interview.

“In a short time, these refugees will look to find some means of providing for themselves, securing an education for their children, and restoring their sense of hope for the future,” he added.

The UNHCR said the recent IS attack on Hit had triggered another wave of internal displacement in Iraq, with more than 1.8 million people having fled their homes so far this year.

The IRC is a global humanitarian aid, relief and development non-governmental organization.

Reporting By Kieran Guilbert

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