UN to launch major operation to help refugees in Iraq
Posted on Aug 19 2014 | IANS
Geneva, Aug 19 : The UN Wednesday will launch a major land, sea and air operation to provide aid to around half a million people displaced by extremists of the Islamic State (IS) Sunni extremist group in northern Iraq.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is expected to begin distribution of the aid in a four-day airlift between Aqaba in Jordan and Erbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said Tuesday.
The aid operation will be completed over the next 10 days with truck convoys dispatched to northern Iraq from Turkey and Jordan, and by sea shipments from Dubai to Iran, from where the supplies will make their way by land into Iraq.
Saudi Arabia, the US, Britain, Japan and other countries are helping finance the aid, which includes 3,300 tents and cooking equipment among other goods.
Some 200,000 people have been displaced in northern Iraq since the start of August, after the fall of Sinjar city and nearby regions at the hands of the IS militants.
Eight refugee camps have been set up in Iraqi Kurdistan to shelter the refugees, which have also been housed in other Iraqi cities such as Diyala, al-Sulaimaniyah and Kirkuk, the UNHCR said.
The IS controls a large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, where it has proclaimed an "Islamic caliphate".
The UNHCR humanitarian operation, one of the largest in the organisation's history, comes as the US and other Western powers have decided to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces stop the advance of the IS in northern Iraq.
The US last week decided to launch airstrikes against the IS which was threatening Erbil, where Washington has diplomats and military advisers.
The move was also prompted by the plight of the dozens of thousands of civilian refugees of religious minorities fleeing their hometowns taken by the IS.
The Iraqi army Tuesday launched a wide-range military operation to recover the city of Tikrit, north of Baghdad, after regaining control Monday over the key Mosul Dam in Nineveh province.
Mosul Dam is one of the main strategic water reserves in Iraq, with a capacity of 12,000 million cubic metres.