UN Inter-agency Flash Appeal Launch: Statement by Sten Bronee, UNHCR Representative in Jordan
Thank you for coming to Amman's launch of the UN's inter-agency flash appeal.
While we hope that UNHCR's role in caring for the war's victims will be small, nevertheless, we must work to ensure that countries bordering on Iraq are able to receive any desperate Iraqis who may seek asylum.
Governments in the region already shelter more than half the more than 400,000 recognised Iraqi refugees in the world. Our job is to help them to be prepared for a possible new influx.
The UN refugee agency's share of this appeal is $154 million to support the efforts of governments in the region to assist and protect any Iraqi refugees who may flee.
We are working with governments and national relief societies, like the Red Crescent movement, to prepare camps throughout the region. So far, we have spent more than $29 million shipping supplies to Jordan, Turkey and Iran, where we already have stockpiles sufficient for more than 300,000 people.
There have been no significant refugee movements reported since the war began. This is not unexpected, these are early days, and Iraqis have been weakened by the collapse of their country's economy and 13 years of sanctions.
They may lack the means to reach distant frontiers or be too afraid to go far on roads where they may be exposed to attacks. Perhaps Iraqis are hoping to wait - out the conflict in their own homes with their meagre supplies of food and other resources.
But the right to seek asylum is a basic human right. High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers has called on all countries in this region to keep their borders open to all Iraqi civilians who may flee.
Governments have indicated that they would abide by their humanitarian obligations, but donor countries must ensure that funds are available.
Australia, Japan and Switzerland, through their embassies here in Amman, have been particularly helpful in helping UNHCR to boost Jordan's preparedness effort, for which I am grateful.
There is nothing more we would like to see at the end of this conflict than that all our preparedness efforts were in vain, that no one needed the protection of a refugee camp. But, in order to ensure that no country in this region is caught unprepared, we do need the full support of the donor community.