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IOM Seeks $85 Million to Aid Iraq's Displaced

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is appealing for $85 million to assist hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Iraqis. It warns large numbers of people will be forced to flee Iraq's borders, unless the international community provides the cash needed to care for Iraq's desperate homeless. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from IOM headquarters in Geneva.

The International Organization for Migration says the suffering of more than 2 million internally displaced people is increasing every day. It says another 4 million Iraqis who have not yet fled their homes are experiencing desperate food shortages and also need urgent help.

IOM Spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy says money from the appeal will target the most vulnerable people. They include female-headed single households, the elderly, the young and the sick. He says these people are stuck inside Iraq. They have nowhere to go and have few means to survive.

"The situation inside Iraq is critical, because until now the displaced have been able to go to the governorates," he said. "They have been able to get some assistance, obviously, from some of the relatives in various parts of the country. But this displacement has reached such a level now that many governorates are closing their doors to the displaced."

Chauzy says those who have had to flee sectarian violence find themselves very isolated. He says they have little prospect of either returning home or going to neighboring countries.

About 2 million Iraqis have fled the country. Most of the refugees are in Syria and Jordan, both of whom are finding it difficult to cope with the overwhelming numbers.

The International Organization for Migration and its partners have been providing humanitarian assistance to internally displaced people in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, despite extremely difficult security conditions. The agency has assisted nearly 5 million people with food and non-food emergency provisions.

IOM Spokesman Chauzy says the $85 million appeal will cover a two-year period. He says money initially will be used to create, what is called, quick-impact community assistance programs in all parts of the country. He says these projects would include rehabilitation and construction of water supply, sanitation, health, and school facilities.

"It is also important to bear in mind, that unemployment in Iraq is rampant. Up to 60 percent. Competition for jobs is very, very high and those quick impact programs would hopefully create some form of employment inside Iraq and therefore alleviate some of the hardships that are linked to this displacement," he said. "The money would also be used critically to rebuild some of the shattered infrastructures."

Chauzy says shelter is a priority need. So the money would help rehabilitate public buildings, provide construction materials to the homeless to build or rehabilitate houses.