UN spotlights plight of more than 1 million displaced Iraqis, calls for durable solutions

Al-Rustumiya, an informal settlement for displaced people on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. Photo: IRIN/Heba Aly

19 August 2013 – On the occasion of World Humanitarian Day, the United Nations in Iraq today highlighted the plight of 1.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country, stressing the need to address the causes for displacement as well as to implement policies for long-term, durable solutions to this issue.

“IDPs are among Iraq's most vulnerable populations,” said the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq for Development and Humanitarian Affairs, Jacqueline Badcock.

“They are often traumatized and frightened, at constant risk of homelessness. In makeshift dwellings and temporary accommodation, they struggle to buy food and to access healthcare and education.”

The upsurge in violence in Iraq this year has caused a new wave of displacement, with figures from the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) citing Baghdad as the worst-affected governorate. Iraq now has the second-highest number of IDPs in the Middle East, after Syria.

“Many of these IDPs struggle to find decent work,” said Ms. Badcock. “Often, they are not recognized by the authorities, so they cannot vote or own property. Women and girls are at risk of gender-based violence and literacy levels are shockingly low.”

Ms. Badcock stressed that the Government and the humanitarian community need to mobilize quickly to ensure that this situation does not become protracted. “These are Iraqis, seeking refuge within the borders of their own country. They need protection and support to integrate into their new communities or to be returned to their homes. IDPs face an uncertain and difficult future, unless we redouble our efforts.”

The UN is currently implementing a range of life-saving, livelihood and empowerment projects for IDP communities throughout Iraq, in coordination with Government and civil society partners.

World Humanitarian Day is observed on 19 August, and commemorates the 2003 Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad, which claimed the lives of 22 UN staff members, including the world body's top envoy to the Middle Eastern country, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and wounded more than 150 people.

The Day aims to honour those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and those who continue to bring assistance and relief to millions, in addition to drawing attention to humanitarian needs worldwide and the importance of international cooperation in meeting those needs.

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