Sweden has sent two military Hercules airplanes with emergency supplies to Erbil as part of UNHCR’s massive 10-day operation to help about 500,000 people caught in Iraq’s worsening humanitarian crisis.
The planes carried 170 family tents and 850 blankets which have been distributed to camps in Northern Iraq.
“The humanitarian crisis in Iraq has deteriorated vastly in the recent weeks and Sweden’s emergency assistance has provided crucial relief to those desperately struggling to survive. UNHCR is thankful for Sweden’s support and generous contribution to this acute crisis”, says Pia Prytz Phiri Regional Representative for Northern Europe.
The Swedish relief mission has been carried out by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) and the tents have been donated by Lions Club International, a disaster response partner to MSB. The relief mission is the first part of a larger mission organized within the framework of the International Humanitarian Partnership (IHP), a collaborative network between Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Norway and the UK. At the moment MSB has a number of experts on site to support UNHCR with the establishment of several camps for the displaced people in northern Iraq. In addition, the MSB and IHP will play a vital role in coordinating the broader humanitarian emergency response, such as establishing offices and ICT support to facilitate the work of UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations.
UNHCR has rapidly scaled up its response to the escalating humanitarian catastrophe which has forced about half a million people to flee their homes within Iraq. Many of the displaced are exhausted, deeply traumatized, living in dreadful conditions, and in acute need of shelter, water, food and other basic necessities. Since 24 August, four UNHCR flights carrying aid supplies to cover the acute needs have landed in Erbil. Air, road, and sea operations have brought in a total of 2,410 tons of aid consisting of tents, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets, plastic tarpaulins, and household items in the most massive aid operation undertaken by UNHCR in a decade.
Currently, there are two camps in Duhok and Erbil and 11 more camps will open soon across the country. UNHCR is also scaling up its shelter-winterization efforts, as well as implementing a country wide cash-assistance programme in parallel with registration and legal assistance, ensuring services for persons with specific needs and victims of sexual and gender based violence.
Across Iraq, an estimated 1.7 million people are displaced, of which an estimated 1.2 million people have been displaced so far in 2014, including more than 600,000 from fighting in the Anbar region which began in January, and about 600,000 displaced from conflicts in and around Mosul since June and since early August Sinjar. The majority of the newly displaced are in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. In addition, the country is hosting some 216 500 Syrian refugees. The situation is extremely fragile and UNHCR relies on the international community to deliver aid, continuing to plead to the international community to address the acute needs that govern the tragedy in Iraq.
Sweden is one of UNHCR’s top donors and partners. In 2013, Sweden was UNHCR’s fifth largest donor with USD 121.3 million (SEK 800 million) in contribution. Furthermore, Sweden was UNHCR’s largest donor of unearmarked contributions which UNHCR was able to use where the need was the greatest.
In 2014 so far, Sweden has contributed with USD 117.2 million (SEK 768.5 million).
UNHCR is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, mainly from governments.