News / Middle East

Security Concerns Grow as UN Scales-Up Aid Operations in Iraq

An Iraqi refugee woman from Mosul sits outside her family's tent at Khazir refugee camp outside Irbil, 217 miles (350 kilometers) north of Baghdad, June 13, 2014.
An Iraqi refugee woman from Mosul sits outside her family's tent at Khazir refugee camp outside Irbil, 217 miles (350 kilometers) north of Baghdad, June 13, 2014.
Lisa Schlein
United Nations aid agencies are expressing alarm at the growing number of Iraqis fleeing from the onslaught of Islamic militants into their territory.  As the agencies scale up their emergency operations, a crisis meeting on Iraq took place in Geneva to consider new strategies for dealing with this humanitarian disaster.

Member states attending the crisis meeting on Iraq are giving little away.  But the spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke, confirms the talks center on the need to revise the current assistance plan for Iraq.   
 
“There is a regional response plan already for Iraq dealing primarily with the Anbar refugees.  It asks for $105 million U.S.  It is 14 percent funded," said Laerke. "Now, this plan is being revised so as to take this new, dramatically increased caseload of IDPs [internally displaced persons] into account.”   

The United Nations estimates half-a-million people have fled the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.  It says some 25,000 remain displaced inside Mosul and tens of thousands of people have fled from other areas the Islamist militants have penetrated. 

Approximately half-a-million people already were displaced from the conflict in Anbar.

The spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, Adrian Edwards, tells VOA that in the current chaotic situation, security is a major concern as aid agencies expand emergency operations.

“Conflict and war, as you know, produces displacement," he said. "Conflict and war also makes it more difficult to help people.  In addition to that, when you have a refugee camp, the security actors who normally help deal with security around that camp are no longer present.  So, this is a very, very real worry indeed.”    

Besides providing relief for hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis, the UNHCR is also caring for thousands of Syrian refugees in Iraq’s Anbar province.   

The director of U.N. information in Geneva, Corinne Momal-Vanian, considers Iraq a high-risk operation and says the security of U.N. staff is a high priority.  She tells VOA some staff have been relocated, and that all scenarios are being envisioned.

“There is always a balance to be reached between the need to deliver assistance and the need to protect our own staff, naturally," said Momal-Vanian. "So, they have been redeployed to safer areas for the moment and the situation is monitored on a daily basis to see whether further measures need to be taken.”   

The U.N. says many of those displaced are staying in the open and urgently need water, food, shelter, and latrines.  It says there are concerns for their protection and reports of an increase in violence against women.  

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says there is a critical shortage of medicine.  It warns people are at risk of catching communicable diseases as the extremely hot temperatures in Iraq continue to rise.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid