BRUSSELS, June 4- Vital aid operations supporting millions of people affected by the conflict in Iraq risk closure unless funds are made available immediately, the official overseeing humanitarian operations in the country said.
With escalating conflict, the United Nations and its NGO partners are asking donors for US$ 497 million to cover the cost of providing shelter, food, water and other life-saving services over the coming six months.
The appeal will target communities across broad swathes of the country displaced or affected by the violence between Government forces and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Speaking at the appeal launch at the European Parliament in Brussels, the United Nation’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande said the aid operation was hanging by a thread.
“The crisis in Iraq is one of the most complex and volatile anywhere in the world,” she said. “Humanitarian partners have been doing everything they can to help. But more than 50 per cent of the operation will be shut down or cut back if money is not received immediately”.
The implications of this, Grande added, would be “catastrophic.”
The humanitarian needs in Iraq are huge and growing. More than 8 million people require immediate life-saving support, a number that could reach 10 million by the end of 2015.
Violence has already forced nearly 3 million people from their homes, leaving them scattered in more than 3,000 locations across the country. Human rights and rule of law are under constant assault as sectarian tensions sharpen. Mass executions, systematic rape and horrendous acts of violence are rampant.
So serious is the funding shortfall that 77 frontline health clinics have been forced to close and food rations for over 1 million people have been reduced. Without additional funding, many more life-saving services will be withdrawn.
“The international community must do its absolute utmost to meet the humanitarian needs in Iraq. Along with the life-saving assistance, there is a critical need to focus on access to education, as a way to help save this generation of children marked by conflict and violence,” said Chair of European Parliament’s Development Committee Linda McAvan.
The aid operation is run in close partnership with the Iraqi Government, whose own financial resources have been severely reduced by falling income from oil. Responsibility for the aid operation will transfer to national authorities as soon as financially and logistically feasible.
“By hosting this event the European Parliament would like to pay tribute to the key role humanitarian aid plays in guaranteeing the security and political stability of Iraq and keeping the country together. We cannot forget that many European countries hold responsibility for the situation in Iraq, so any amount of humanitarian aid is justified in order to guarantee the viability of the state,” said Javier Couso Permuy, Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.