Aid Agencies Battle to Cope with One of the Most Rapid Population Movements this Decade
Francine Uenuma 202.450.9153 (M)
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Aug. 8, 2014) — Aid agencies are working around the clock to cope with the rapid displacement in northern Iraq as tens of thousands of people flee from Qaraqosh, Iraq's unofficial Christian capital.
This comes after almost 200,000 people fled Sinjar on Sunday following a massacre that killed at least 500 people including dozens of children.
Cars packed with 10 or more people have also been seen arriving in the Kurdish capital, Erbil, after fleeing deadly violence in Mosul on Thursday.
More than 1.2 million Iraqis have already been displaced in the past two months since the fighting began, at an average rate of more than 20,000 per day.
"In all my years I have never known such a rapid moment of displacement, and it's putting aid agencies like Save the Children under an enormous amount of pressure to meet the needs of incredibly vulnerable people," said Iraq Country Director Tina Yu.
"We're seeing children and families who've fled their homes, often in the middle of the night, fearing for their lives and with nothing but the clothes on their backs. When they find somewhere safe to shelter they often don't have the means to buy basic necessities like food and medicine, and they don't know if their lives will ever be the same again."
This week Save the Children has distributed hygiene kits, jerry cans, shelter kits and biscuit packs in some of the worst affected areas, reaching more than 7,000 people. Save the Children has helped more than 100,000 in northern Iraq since fighting first broke out at the beginning of June.
On Sunday the city of Sinjar and surrounding areas were the scene of intense fighting, causing almost all of its 300,000 mostly Yazidi residents to flee, with at least 40,000 taking refuge in the mountains nearby.
Now they are at risk of dying of dehydration if they stay on the mountain, or massacre if they come back down.
Yu said aid agencies needed unfettered humanitarian access to the worst affected areas, including the mountains near Sinjar. "In order to reach the most vulnerable communities, aid agencies like Save the Children need unrestricted humanitarian access. Without this safe passage, thousands of lives will be put at risk."
Save the Children has been working in Iraq for 23 years, and has bases in Erbil, Dohuk, Sulimaniyah and Basra. We are responding to families' needs throughout the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and across all of the worst affected communities in northern and central Iraq.
Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood – every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.