UNHCR chief discusses refugee crisis with Jordan's King Abdullah
AMMAN, Jordan, February 12 (UNHCR) - UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Tuesday thanked Jordan's King Abdullah II for his nation's hospitality toward hundreds of thousands of uprooted Iraqis.
In an afternoon audience with the Jordanian monarch, Guterres expressed his "deep gratitude" for the generosity shown by Jordan in hosting more than half-a-million Iraqis who have fled violence in their homeland.
The High Commissioner, on a weeklong mission to the region aimed at highlighting the plight of uprooted Iraqis, said the international community needed to recognize the huge burden borne by host countries, particularly Jordan and neighbouring Syria, and do more to ease that load.
Guterres, who arrived in Amman on Monday, also met with Prime Minister Nader Dahabi, Interior Minister Eid Fayez, Foreign Minister Salah Bashir, Minister of Planning Suhair Al-Ali and the ministers of education, higher education and health. On Tuesday evening, Guterres was scheduled to travel to the Syrian capital of Damascus.
In addition to reviewing the refugee agency's operations, Guterres intends to assure governments in the region of UNHCR's continued commitment to, and engagement in, efforts to ease the plight of those displaced in the region and beyond.
UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 4.4 million Iraqis are still uprooted, including 2.4 million displaced inside Iraq and 2 million outside - mainly in Syria and Jordan. In addition, more than 41,000 non-Iraqi refugees are in Iraq, including Palestinians, Iranians, Turks and others.
UNHCR this year has appealed for US$261 million for programmes to support the most vulnerable of the uprooted inside and outside Iraq. A total of US$40 million will be for Iraqis displaced inside the country and will also be part of the Consolidated Appeal (CAP) which was launched Tuesday in Baghdad by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq.
The Iraq CAP of US$265 million aims to meet the immediate needs of the most vulnerable Iraqis who have been displaced inside Iraq.
UNHCR has been assisting internally displaced Iraqis, but getting help to many of them is extremely difficult because of insecurity in much of the country. In 2008, the refugee agency is focusing on getting assistance to 400,000 of the most vulnerable of the displaced people in Iraq.
Last year, UNHCR registered more than 250,000 Iraqis in neighbouring states; gave health assistance to some 210,000 cases and provided educational support in Syria, Jordan and other countries that enabled tens of thousands of refugee children to attend school. Under the 2008 appeal, UNHCR has set a target of bringing the total to 200,000 children in school by the end of this year.
UNHCR is also providing direct assistance to vulnerable families, including a project that provides cash cards for limited monthly withdrawals. Together with the World Food Programme, UNHCR will provide food for up to 360,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria this year. In both Syria and Jordan UNHCR is distributing items such as blankets, heaters, mattresses and other support items.
The refugee agency will also continue a resettlement programme for the most vulnerable Iraqis. Last year, more than 21,000 Iraqi resettlement cases were submitted by UNHCR to 16 governments for consideration.
By Ron Redmond in Amman, Jordan