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UN Security Council Says Iraq's Humanitarian Situation Still a Major Challenge


The United Nations Security Council says continued violence, crime, political instability and increased levels of displaced people are weighing heavily on Iraq's humanitarian crisis. From VOA's New York bureau, Mona Ghuneim reports.

U.N. Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe says the solution to Iraq's humanitarian crisis can come only when the political, economic and security situation in the country is resolved. He says only then can a safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes be achieved.

Speaking in at the UN Friday, Pascoe said the overall number of Iraqi refugees and IDPs has risen to an estimated 4.2 million with monthly displacement rates climbing to over 60,000 people."The humanitarian situation in Iraq continues to be alarming and provides ample evidence of the impact (that) violence in Iraq has on civilians on a daily basis," he said.

Pascoe says Iraq, its neighbors, the UN and the international community need to play a larger role in achieving stability in the country. He says that although the number of Iraqi casualties in September was the lowest for the year, the UN is still experiencing difficulty in assisting those in need.

The UN Iraqi representative Hamid Al Bayati says the decline in the number of terrorist attacks is encouraging, but terrorism and crime continue to be major factors in the growing humanitarian crisis. "There is concern about deterioration of (the) humanitarian situation in Iraq due to the flow of refugees to neighboring countries and the internal displacement of people escaping terrorists, militia and criminal activity," he said.

The Security Council has said it welcomes the Iraqi government's commitment to provide financial assistance to refugee host countries, but the ultimate goal is to make Iraq secure enough so that refugees and IDPs can return home.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad says the security situation in Iraq is transforming. He says blows to al-Qaida have been significant and the overall number of civilian deaths in 2007 is down. "Some of the players are changing sides, and despite ongoing violence, we see this qualitative shift against extremism as an improvement. Iraqis are taking on more responsibility for protecting themselves," he said.

But Khalilzad and his UN colleagues say civilian deaths are unacceptable and Iraq needs continued and increased international assistance. They say further efforts to improve security must be addressed immediately if any more human suffering is to be prevented.