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ICRC: Over a Million Iraqis Could Flee Intensified Fighting

Displaced women, who fled from the Islamic State violence, gather at a refugee camp in the Makhmour area near Mosul, Iraq, June 17, 2016.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned more than one million people in Iraq could be forced to flee their homes in coming months as fighting intensifies in different parts of the country.

More than 10 million people are in need of assistance in Iraq, including some three million internally displaced people, the Geneva-based group says, warning that the number of internally displaced could dramatically increase if there is the predicted upsurge in violence.

Aid agencies are bracing for a looming battle in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Over the past year, the government has been preparing to recapture Mosul from Islamic State militants.

ICRC Regional Director for the Near and Middle East Robert Mardini said a big military operation in Mosul presents big challenges for humanitarian agencies, given "the sheer magnitude" of the needs that could arise as a result and require more than just funding.

"It requires an organization and people that are present on the ground and ready to take calculated risks to help people in need," he said. "Already today, one-tenth of the Iraqi population is displaced. Every day hundreds of families continue to be displaced and are in need of shelter, protection and assistance.”

Mardini has just returned from a mission to Iraq, where he visited Khaldiyah camp, which is housing displaced people from the city of Fallujah. He described the difficulties people are facing in their everyday life.

“These past months and years, essential goods have dwindled and become expensive in many areas and livelihoods and key infrastructure have been destroyed," he said. "Children have been out of school for prolonged periods of time. The children I met in Khaldiyah camp did not go to school for three years now.”

Mardini said people are unable to move around freely because of the security situation and volatility. He said this has reduced their ability to cope, making them more dependent on humanitarian aid.

The ICRC is launching a preliminary appeal for $17 million to start what will develop into a much larger operation. The money will be used to provide water, food, medical supplies and other crucial aid for people caught up in the fighting.

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