UNHCR warns of Iraq funding crunch as thousands flee Falluja

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ariane Rummery to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is urgently seeking US$17.5 million to meet the immediate needs of the tens of thousands of civilians pouring out of Iraq's Falluja in recent days.

More than 85,000 people have fled Falluja and the surrounding area since a government military offensive to retake the city from extremists began a month ago, on 23 May. About 60,000 of these fled over a period of just three days last week, between 15 to 18 June. Thousands more could still be planning to leave the city.

The funds are desperately needed to expand the number of camps and to provide urgently needed relief supplies for displaced people who have already endured months of deprivation and hardship without enough food or medicine. We also need funds to provide psycho-social and other support to this exhausted and deeply traumatised population.

UNHCR and partners have been providing tents and relief aid to displaced families in Amiriyat al Falluja, Al Khalidiya and Habbaniyah Tourist City (HTC) – all within 20 to 30 kilometres of Falluja. But with last week's surge in arrivals the overcrowding is growing. Two and sometimes three families are having to share tents in many cases while others sleep in the open, without hygiene facilities. Rising temperatures, the absence of shade and insufficient clean drinking water are compounding an already desperate situation.

These escalating needs have pushed UNHCR funding into crisis levels. Almost half way through the year, we have received only 21 per cent our requirements for Iraq and the surrounding region – one of the world's biggest internal displacement and refugee situations. Only US$127.7 million has been received against the projected needs of US$584 million in 2016. We are exhausting available resources in Iraq to deal with the rapid developments in Falluja.

Six camps have already been established in Amiriyat and Falluja. We're building three more in Khalidya and Habbaniya Tourist City and expanding two others. But we expect that 20 more will be needed over the coming weeks to house 30,000 people. Funds are also urgently needed for blankets, mattresses and jerry cans as well as other support.

As well as Falluja, UNHCR is responding to the displacement over the past three months of over 20,000 people from Mosul and surrounding districts due to renewed offensives there.

In the past few days, close to 3,000 people arrived in the already crowded Debaga camp in Erbil Governorate, pushing the population there and in a nearby stadium to 10,000. The new arrivals are staying in a severely overcrowded reception centre, now seven times above its capacity. There are few latrines, and drinking water is in short supply. It is estimated that more than a million people still live in Mosul and any large offensive against the city could result in the displacement of up to 600,000 more people.

In all, there are more than 3.3 million people internally displaced in Iraq who have fled their homes since January 2014, on top of a million more people still displaced since the sectarian conflicts of the mid-2000s. A further 230,000 Iraqi refugees have sought refuge in other countries in the region. Of these refugees, some 6,700 Iraqis from in and around Mosul have taken the extraordinary step of fleeing into Al-Hasakeh Governorate, in the north-east of war-torn Syria.

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