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UN agencies seek US$85 million to fund health projects for Iraqi refugees

News Stories, 18 September 2007

© UNHCR/J.Wreford
Keeping Heathy. Iraqi refugees at a medical centre in Damascus. UNHCR and sister agencies have launched an appeal for funds to help host countries provide health care for Iraqi refugees.

GENEVA, September 18 (UNHCR) UNHCR and sister agencies on Tuesday issued an appeal for US$84.8 million to help host countries meet the health and nutrition needs of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees.

The joint appeal, launched in Geneva by UNHCR, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP), emphasizes the basic health needs of Iraqis in neighbouring countries, especially Syria and Jordan, which host an estimated 1.5 million and 750,000 Iraqis respectively.

The UN refugee agency has asked for US$49.2 million of the total, earmarking this for improvements in primary and advanced care; management of chronic diseases; support for state-run health clinics and hospitals; and purchases of medicine and equipment, including ambulances. UNHCR also needs financial help to develop strategies to deal with sexual and gender-based violence.

"The health needs of more than two million displaced Iraqis should not be ignored. Many are survivors of violence and have serious medical conditions. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi displaced children need to keep on track with their vaccination programme. This requires an enormous coordinated effort with governments and UN agencies and NGOs and requires significant financial support from the international community," said a joint statement.

Meanwhile, Radhouane Nouicer, UNHCR's director for the Middle East and North Africa, said the health appeal showed that the situation in Iraq was gaining wider attention and required more support. "A more robust intervention by the international community through bilateral and multilateral channels is needed," he added.

The large numbers of people who have arrived in Syria and Jordan over the past year have put an enormous strain on the already overstretched public services in those countries and pose major challenges to the host governments as well as local and international organizations.

"In Syria alone, hundreds of Iraqi amputees need prostheses and thousands of cancer patients and trauma victims need specialized treatment," said the joint press release. "Access to hospital care is limited. Gaps have arisen in the national health information and disease surveillance systems, which increase the risk of vaccine preventable diseases," the release added. The displaced Iraqi population also needs reproductive and child health services.

UNHCR, in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society, has been providing health care assistance to Iraqi refugees and to host governments. "In Syria alone, we have rehabilitated and are supporting six clinics, provided ambulances and renovated a hospital floor to be used to care for Iraqis," Nouicer said.

The refugee agency is also providing specialized care for cancer and heart patients and counselling for traumatized Iraqis, he said, adding: "We are expanding our care for thousands of severely affected Iraqis and hope to expand this support during 2008."

UNHCR recently signed an agreement with the Syrian Ministry of Health to support 50 public health centres, while an accord has been signed with a Damascus hospital for specialized treatment of 500 cancer patients.

In Jordan, UNHCR supports four clinics and has set up referral systems for Iraqi refugees to receive urgent secondary and tertiary treatment at public and private hospitals in Amman. UNHCR also funds psychosocial care for traumatized Iraqis.

Since the start of this year, UNHCR has launched appeals in January, April and July for its Iraq-linked programmes, including projects aimed at ensuring education for refugees in host countries and help for host communities.

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Public Health

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Health crisis in South Sudan

There are roughly 105,000 refugees in South Sudan's Maban County. Many are at serious health risk. UNHCR and its partners are working vigorously to prevent and contain the outbreak of malaria and several water-borne diseases.

Most of the refugees, especially children and the elderly, arrived at the camps in a weakened condition. The on-going rains tend to make things worse, as puddles become incubation areas for malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Moderately malnourished children and elderly can easily become severely malnourished if they catch so much as a cold.

The problems are hardest felt in Maban County's Yusuf Batil camp, where as many as 15 per cent of the children under 5 are severely malnourished.

UNHCR and its partners are doing everything possible to prevent and combat illness. In Yusuf Batil camp, 200 community health workers go from home to home looking educating refugees about basic hygene such as hand washing and identifying ill people as they go. Such nutritional foods as Plumpy'nut are being supplied to children who need them. A hospital dedicated to the treatment of cholera has been established. Mosquito nets have been distributed throughout the camps in order to prevent malaria.

Health crisis in South Sudan

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

After Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in Iraq in 2003, groups of refugees who had lived in the country for many years tried to leave the chaos and lawlessness that soon ensued. Hundreds of people started fleeing to the border with Jordan, including Palestinians in Baghdad and Iranian Kurds from the Al Tash refugee camp in central Iraq.

Aside from a few Palestinians with family connections inside the neighbouring country, the refugees were refused entry and free movement in Jordan. Thousands were soon stranded in the no-man's land between Iraq and Jordan or at the desert camp of Ruweished, located 60 kilometres inside Jordan.

Since 2003, Palestinians, Iranian Kurds, Iranians, Sudanese and Somalis have been living there and suffering the scorching heat and freezing winters of the Jordanian desert. UNHCR and its partners have provided housing and assistance and tried to find solutions – the agency has helped resettle more than 1,000 people in third countries. At the beginning of 2007, a total of 119 people – mostly Palestinians – remained in Ruweished camp without any immediate solution in sight.

Posted on 20 February 2007

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