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Northern Iraq: Turkish shelling causing displacement

Briefing notes

Northern Iraq: Turkish shelling causing displacement

18 December 2007

We are very concerned about the displacement of people in northern Iraq caused by the ongoing shelling by Turkey and have urgently dispatched supplies to help those who fled, leaving everything behind. The relief supplies will be distributed today, Tuesday. Last weekend more than 1,800 people (300 families), fled their homes in the Sangasar sub district of Sulaymaniah Governorate and from Doli Shahidan in Erbil Governorate, 100 km inside Iraq. They have moved to safer areas of both Governates. The displaced people told us that ten villages had been affected by the shelling. One woman was reported killed and several people injured. Over 200 head of livestock have also been killed. One mukhtar - head of a local village - told us six bridges which connect several villages had been destroyed, as well as a local school. We were told families have each left one member behind in the affected villages as they could not leave their livestock untended. A lack of pasture or space in other villages, as well as being told by village leaders they could not bring their livestock with them, were reasons given for leaving a family member behind.

Yesterday, Monday, our teams reported continued shelling in the Sangasar Pishdar area causing even more displacement. Some families are reported leaving their homes as they fear their villages might be shelled. The displaced families, who have left everything behind in their villages, have moved in with relatives or friends. Winter has set in and living conditions are very harsh, particularly for host families which now have to care for additional people. Many of those displaced say they cannot afford to pay monthly rents of $200-$300 for alternative accommodation and are concerned about the ongoing attacks as they fear they cannot stay much longer with their host families.

On Monday, UNHCR with its partners on the ground quickly dispatched non-food items such as blankets, mattresses, stoves, lanterns, jerry cans, plastic sheets, kitchen sets and soap to Sulaymania and Erbil after being asked by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to provide additional help to those displaced. The items are being distributed to needy families today. There is an urgent need for kerosene which will be provided by the KRG.

A total of 2.4 million Iraqis are displaced in their own country, while an additional 2.2 million Iraqis have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan.