UNHCR launches new airlift to ensure Iraqi displaced are warm this winter

150,000 to Receive Tent Insulation Kits

The first flight in a new UNHCR airlift aimed at providing winter aid to Iraqis displaced by conflict this year has landed in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region. The first of seven planned flights from Pakistan touched down at Erbil International Airport at 2345 local time (2045 GMT) on Thursday, carrying 3,600 tent insulation kits. The kits, comprising polystyrene flooring and fiber insulation for tent walls, will be distributed in camps across Iraq.

Six more cargo flights are scheduled to arrive before 12 December, bringing a total of 25,000 insulation kits to Iraq from Lahore, where a major producer is located.

"Time is growing short," warns UNHCR Regional Director Amin Awad. With temperatures now dropping across Iraq, we must get this essential support to the most vulnerable Iraqi displaced immediately."

Latest figures now indicate that around 2 million Iraqis have been displaced since January. More than 60,000 people are now living in eight tented camps, and new camps are being constructed to house more than 300,000 others. Currently, as many as 700,000 people are living in unfinished or abandoned buildings, schools, religious centres, and even in parks. While UNHCR, the central Government in Baghdad, the regional government in Kurdistan, and dozens of aid agencies are working to provide safe and warm shelter to all in need, challenges of time and scale loom ahead. UNHCR and other organizations are also providing additional winter relief in-situ, for those living in substandard housing who will not be moving to camps.

Funding constraints remain a major challenge; UNHCR has received less than half of the more than 110 million dollars it is seeking for winterization. UNHCR needs 15,000 more insulation kits to reach a target of 40,000 families. And the needs go far beyond tent insulation, to plastic sheeting, cooking kits, warm clothing, camp drainage systems, water proofing and stoves for heating. Kerosene is also an urgently needed lifesaving commodity in these months, without which those displaced will suffer and the lives of the most vulnerable could be endangered. The Government of Iraq is urgently considering plans to provide IDPs with 20 million liters of kerosene to cover heating needs for the next toughest 60 days of harsh winter in the highlands on Northern Iraq.

"Donors such as Saudi Arabia, the United States, which has helped to pay for the current airlift, Germany, Japan, and many others have been extremely generous," notes UNHCR's Amin Awad, "However the needs vastly outstrip current resources. All of us in the humanitarian community remain deeply concerned that we will not be able to fully support all those in need this winter."

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Erbil, Natalia Prokopchuk on mobile +964 780 921 7341
  • In Amman, Jessica Hyba on mobile +964 780 109 9776
  • In Beirut (on mission), Ned Colt on mobile +964 780 917 4173
  • In Geneva, Francis Markus on mobile +41 7930 11966