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Millions of Iraqis Living on the Edge

  • Lisa Schlein

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is appealing for $19 million to help nearly one million people in Iraq who are largely overlooked by social welfare and aid programs. From Geneva, Lisa Schlein reports the Federation says these people are the most socially vulnerable in Iraq.

The United Nations estimates up to six million people in Iraq are in dire need of help because of years of violence and economic hardship. It says some four million people are unable to buy enough food regularly, have no access to safe drinking water and have great difficulty getting the medical care they need.

The International Red Cross Federation is aiming to help nearly one million of, what it calls, the most socially vulnerable people inside Iraq over the next year.

Operations Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Linda Stops, tells VOA these are people who have generally been overlooked by social welfare and aid programs. These are people who have no or very little income and cannot make it on their own.

"They are in their homes. They are not displaced, but they are poor," she said. "They may be unemployed. do not have jobs. They may be elderly. They may be handicapped. They fall into a lot of categories, but they do not fit into some of the other standard categories that we see in Iraq, such as internally displaced. You know being taken to or moving to a different place because of violence or insecurity within the country. We are really looking to service those people who fall through the cracks from other programs that may be already existing in the country."

A lot of attention has been given to the needs of two million people displaced within Iraq because of violence and insecurity. The international community has responded to the plight of more than two million Iraqis who have taken refuge in other countries, mainly Syria and Jordan.

While aid for these needy people must be continued, Stops says more attention must be given to the socially vulnerable inside Iraq, in particular families with many children, single parent families, widows, as well as victims of natural disasters.

The Red Cross Federation has more than 3,200 staff and 10,000 volunteers who carry out the agency's humanitarian operations. Stops says money from the emergency appeal will provide food and other relief items to 900,000 people.

In addition, she says health services will be provided to 50,000 people and 10,000 handicapped people will receive wheelchairs. She says money also will be used to train tens of thousands of people basic first aid and techniques for counseling those who need psychological support.