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UNHCR appeals for $261 million for Iraqi refugee programmes in 2008

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UNHCR appeals for $261 million for Iraqi refugee programmes in 2008

8 January 2008

8 January 2008

GENEVA - The UN refugee agency is seeking $261 million this year for its operations on behalf of some of the 4 million people uprooted by the conflict in Iraq.

UNHCR's Iraq Situation Supplementary Appeal covers programmes for many of the 2.2 million Iraqis displaced within Iraq, as well as the 2 million who have fled to other countries in the region, including Syria, Jordan, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and several of the Gulf States. The agency also cares for some 41,000 non-Iraqi refugees in Iraq, including Palestinians, Iranians, Turks and others.

UNHCR, which is funded primarily through voluntary contributions from governments, now has nearly 350 staff directly engaged in operations for Iraq and the surrounding region.

Most of the refugees outside Iraq are in Syria and Jordan and are living in urban areas such as Damascus and Amman. Many of them are running out of money and finding it increasingly difficult to get by. In addition to direct assistance to some of the most vulnerable refugees, UNHCR is supporting efforts by governments in the region that are struggling to cope with the huge numbers of Iraqis who have strained local resources and infrastructure, including schools and health systems.

UNHCR has registered more than 220,000 Iraqis in neighbouring states; given health assistance for some 210,000 cases; and provided educational support in Syria, Jordan and other countries that has enabled 100,000 refugee children to attend school. Under the 2008 appeal, UNHCR has set a target of getting another 100,000 Iraqi refugee children into school, bringing the total to 200,000 by the end of the year. The agency will also continue direct assistance to vulnerable families, including a programme that provides cash cards for limited monthly withdrawals by female-headed households, widows and people with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

Funds are also being allocated to cover some of the needs of up to 15,000 Iraqi refugee families who may decide to return home during 2008. Iraqi authorities say at least 30,000 families returned in late 2007 to certain areas of the country, although UNHCR is unable to confirm that figure. The appeal document stresses that UNHCR cannot at this time promote or encourage the return of Iraqi refugees, citing continuing security concerns and other factors. The agency is ready, however, to support the government in providing assistance to those who do decide to return.

Resettlement of the most vulnerable Iraqis is also covered by the new appeal. Last year, more than 21,000 Iraqi resettlement cases were submitted to 16 governments for consideration. By early December, more than 4,500 of them had actually been resettled. UNHCR expects to submit at least another 20,000 referrals to resettlement countries in 2008.

The 2008 appeal also covers programmes for internally displaced Iraqis, but notes that getting help to many of them is extremely difficult because of insecurity in much of the country. Most of UNHCR's work inside Iraq is overseen by local staff in coordination with Iraqi aid agencies. In 2008, the agency will focus on getting assistance to 400,000 of the most vulnerable of the estimated 2.2 million internally displaced people in Iraq. Programmes will include protection and legal help through a network of Protection and Assistance Centres; counselling; provision of household and shelter items; support for camps for the internally displaced; and infrastructure rehabilitation projects to increase the capacity of local communities struggling to cope with internally displaced populations.

The appeal makes special mention of the dire situation facing some 13,000 Palestinian refugees in Iraq, many of whom have been targeted by armed groups and who have been unable to find sanctuary in other countries. UNHCR will continue to seek solutions for the Palestinians, including the possibility of resettlement for the most vulnerable.

UNHCR will also strengthen its preparedness and response capacity by reinforcing its emergency stockpiles inside Iraq and in the region for up to 370,000 people.

This Iraq Situation Supplementary Appeal consolidates UNHCR's 2008 requirements which were previously announced in the Interagency Health and Education Appeals for Iraq, both of which were issued in 2007. UNHCR is collaborating closely with the UN Country Team in Baghdad on details of a UN consolidated appeal which will be issued later this month.

In 2007, UNHCR received more than $152 million for its programmes to aid uprooted Iraqis in the region and refugees inside Iraq.