Washington/Aleteia (Aleteia.org/ar) – Millions of Iraqi refugees are caught in the middle of winter, and the international community must ease the way so that their basic needs can be met; according to the testimony before Congress last week.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Kelly Clements acknowledged that, “The reality is that we are not covering all their necessities, and those necessities are enormous.”
Years of war, sectarian conflict and the recent attacks by ISIS have caused approximately five million Iraqis to be displaced. They are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, according to Clements’ testimony.
With the coming of winter a series of new challenges have come along with it in this critical situation. In the Kurdish region in Northern Iraq the temperatures in winter range between three and 41 degrees fahrenheit. Millions of people are in need of sufficient shelter and fuel for heating. In addition to this, there are millions of Iraqis and Syrians who are living below the minimum standard of living and without protection from the elements. There are another two million who are in areas that are under ISIS control where it is currently impossible to reach them with aid.
Thomas Staal of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said that at this time, “It is possible to meet their basic necessities; however, that is not sufficient.”
In the Kurdish region alone, there are approximately 450,000 refugees who have fled who are in need of winter clothing and shoes. It is abundantly clear that that United Nations has a “financing gap” that amounts to approximately 173 million dollars for winter support. This must be dealt with immediately, according to the testimony of Kristele Younes, Director of the U.N. International Rescue Committee for Humanitarian Affairs.
One overwhelming topic of the testimony has been that the new humanitarian needs appear on the surface to exceed the ability of the donor governments and international humanitarian organizations. Meanwhile, other countries have provided assistance; however, their budgets have also become inflated. For example, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have been covering the basic nutritional necessities of the Iraqis, but this program will only be carried out until the end of January.
Younes continued by stating that, “It is December and here we sit continuing to talk about winter and providing winter clothing and shoes. Frankly, this is embarrassing. We should be ashamed of ourselves.”
Aside from the subjects of supplies and the displacement of so many people stands another threat which is instability. Andrea Koppel of Mercy Corps described this problem as a “time bomb” because it is threating “the fragile stability of these communities.”