ERBIL, IRAQ – A chartered flight has arrived in Erbil carrying urgent relief items for the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees fleeing violence in Syria and crossing into northern Iraq.
More than 44,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into the Kurdish region of northern Iraq since 15 August; most of them are women and children sheltered in camps or collective facilities while others reside with family and friends.
The WFP-chartered flight, which arrived on Monday from Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, carried 340 family tents for UNHCR, part of a generous contribution from the United States, 42 metric tons of high energy biscuits for WFP and 15 metric tons of special nutritional bars contributed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
“The continuing exodus of people fleeing Syria into Iraq over the last month has been unprecedented,” said Claire Bourgeois, UNHCR Representative in Iraq. “With the support of the Government of the Kurdistan Region, UNHCR, WFP and our partners are in a race against time to meet the needs of the tens of thousands of new arrivals.”
A second flight is due to arrive in Erbil today from Adana, Turkey, carrying 93 metric tons of food rations, enough to feed 11,500 people for three weeks. The UN food agency is also mobilizing more than 37,000 rations from around the region to feed up to 185,000 people for one month. Some 25 trucks carrying 500 metric tons of food supplies arrived Monday from Turkey to meet the urgent food need of refugees.
High-energy biscuits and the special nutritional bars contributed by USAID are an ideal form of assistance in the first phase of an emergency because they require no cooking, providing an immediate solution to food needs and prevent malnutrition.
Most of the newly arrived refugees have been transfered to Kawergosk camp, close to Erbil, which is now home to an estimated 15,000 refugees. The governor of Erbil has asked UNHCR to establish a permanent refugee camp to accommodate the massive influx. In the last 12 days, aid workers have turned the desolate Kawergosk site from an empty plain into a burgeoning refugee camp that now must be prepared for northern Iraq’s rough winters.
UNHCR’s family tents will be used at Kawergosk to shelter more than 2,000 recently arrived refugees who are in need of shelter. The UN Refugee Agency has so far sent over 120 trucks of aid to camps and various centres hosting new arrivals, with more relief being dispatched from UNHCR’s stockpiles in Jordan.
WFP has distributed more than 1,500 family food rations, enough to feed 7,500 people for one month, in Kawergosk camp over the last few days. The ration includes rice, sugar, salt, wheat flour, lentils, and vegetable oil.
“We are grateful for the generosity of the local authorities of the Kurdistan Regional Government who provided the Syrian refugees with hot meals in the initial days, when they arrived in northern Iraq, said Ute Meir, WFP’s acting Country Director in Iraq. “WFP has now mobilized enough food to meet most of the urgent food needs of Syrian refugees in camps and transit centres in northern Iraq.”
Elsewhere in Erbil Governorate, UNHCR is currently assisting an estimated 3,000 people temporarily encamped at the Baharka warehouse; some 2,600 Syrians are temporarily living in schools and other buildings in Qushtapa. A temporary site at Basirma will accommodate also some 4,000 persons who are currently living in local schools and mosques. In Sulemaniyeh there are currently some 900 persons in UNHCR tents at Arbat while more than 2,000 are living in schools, mosques and a library.
Syrian refugees have been arriving at the Sahela border crossing and entering the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq at a pace averaging more than 3,800 a day since the influx started, with up to 13,500 people crossing Peshkhabour just in one day, on 17 August. They first traverse a desolate four-kilometre no man’s land that aid workers say some children cross barefoot. Among the recent arrivals are people from Qamishli, Derik, Aleppo, Kobany and Hassakeh.
Almost 200,000 Syrian refugees fled into Iraq since the onset of the conflict in Syria, with some 30 percent in camps such as Domiz and 70 percent living in Iraqi communities.
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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Last year, WFP reached more than 97 million people in 80 countries with food assistance.
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UNHCR, The UN refugee agency, is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people. In more than six decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives.
For more information:
Natalia Prokopchuk, UNHCR/Baghdad, tel. +964.780.921.7341, firstname.lastname@example.org
Liene Veide, UNHCR/Erbil, Tel. +964.771.842.2682, email@example.com
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Dan McNorton, UNHCR Geneva, Tel. +41 79 217 3011, email@example.com
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Elisabeth Byrs, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41 22 917 8564, Mob. +41 79 473 4570, email@example.com