1/3 of Iraqis need urgent aid

8 million Iraqis need urgent aid, report says

James Sturcke and agencies, Monday July 30, 2007

Guardian (click for full story)
Guardian Unlimited
An Iraqi boy drinks from a tap at a camp for displaced people in Najaf
An Iraqi boy drinks from a tap at a camp for displaced people in Najaf. Photograph: Qassem Neim/AFP/Getty Images
One third of the Iraqi population needs emergency aid because of the humanitarian crisis caused by war and ongoing violence, according to a new report.

Around 8 million Iraqis are in urgent need of water, sanitation, food and shelter, a joint report (pdf) released today by Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq said.

The document said that although armed violence is the greatest threat facing Iraqis, the population is also experiencing another crisis of “an alarming scale and severity”.

It was published as Gordon Brown met the US president, George Bush, determined to shift the focus in UK-US relations from Iraq to less divisive issues such as trade.

Mr Brown wants a quicker withdrawal of troops than the Bush administration. A report by the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, due in September, is expected to provide cover for a more rapid pullout.

Researchers found that 15% of Iraqis cannot regularly afford to eat, 70% do not have adequate water supplies (up from 50% in 2003), 28% of children are malnourished (compared with 19% before the invasion), and 92% of children suffer learning problems.

The report also said more than 2 million people – mostly women and children – have been displaced within Iraq and have no reliable income, while another 2 million Iraqis have fled the country as refugees, mostly to neighbouring Syria and Jordan.

The “brain drain” that Iraq is experiencing is further stretching already inadequate public services as thousands of medical staff, teachers, water engineers and other professionals are forced to leave the country, the report warned. At the end of 2006, an estimated 40% had left.

“Basic services, ruined by years of war and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people,” Jeremy Hobbs, the director of Oxfam International, said. “Millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee the violence, either to another part of Iraq or abroad. Many of those are living in dire poverty.”

Mr Hobbs urged the Iraqi government, the UN and the international community to do more to help Iraqis.

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