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Iraq's Internally Displaced People in Need Food, Water


The International Organization for Migration reports thousands of people who fled violence in central Iraq for the relative safety of a poor southern region are barely managing to survive. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from IOM headquarters in Geneva.

These vulnerable people are among some 300,000 who have fled the violence in Iraq.

The International Organization for Migration says the thousands of Iraqis who have arrived in the southern region of Missan since February are living in relative peace. But, it says nearly 30 percent of those surveyed say they do not have regular access to clean water. In addition, many of the displaced Iraqis say food assistance is irregular and not sufficient.

IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy says another problem is fuel, which is expensive or unavailable. He expects many people will have difficulty in the winter when fuel is essential for heating and cooking.

He says the situation is particularly bleak for female-headed households.

"Women do not have access to work. The social networks that existed in the past to assist single-headed households, widows, have broken down," he said. "We also know that a lot of those, particularly vulnerable who were taken in by families or the extended family, that those family bonds are breaking down under the pressure."

The U.N. Children's Fund notes female-headed households are increasing throughout the country as a consequence of the escalating violence. Spokesman Michael Bociurkiw says 11 percent of Iraqi households are headed by women.

He says that number is sure to climb as more and more men get killed.

"The Iraq Red Crescent and other NGO's [non-governmental organizations] have reported a significant increase since mid-2006 in the number of women seeking help to feed their children after being widowed, particularly in Baghdad and the south-central zone," explained Bociurkiw. "We are also seeing as a result of increasing poverty, in urban Iraq especially, street children are an increasingly a visible phenomenon."

Bociurkiw says education also is severely hit, especially for girls. He says one-fifth of Iraqi girls were not enrolled in primary school in 2004 and that number continues to go up. He says schools are affected by sectarian violence and girls' schools often are singled out for special threats.