Wednesday, January 16, 2008

GENEVA — The plight of the 1.2 million Iraqis internally displaced since February 2006 has continued to worsen, aggravated by a lack of access to food rations, health care and basic services such as clean water, sanitation and electricity, a report by a global relief agency said.

Population displacement within and from Iraq “remains one of the largest and most serious humanitarian crises in the world,” the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a European-based intergovernmental organization, said in a report.

More than 2 million Iraqis have taken refuge in neighboring Jordan and Syria. A total of 2.4 million have been displaced within the war-torn nation since 2003, including 1.2 million that were forced from homes since February 2006, when sectarian violence changed the scale of the uprooting.

“Although military operations, crime and general insecurity remain factors, sectarian violence became the primary driver for population displacement,” said the report, which draws on a survey of 142,000 displaced families throughout the country.

By religion and ethnicity. nearly 61 percent of the population displaced in 2007 are Shi’ite Arabs, 28.2 percent are Sunni Arabs, 3.6 percent are Christians, and 2.6 percent are Sunni Kurd, the study said.

The survey found that only 22 percent of the internally displaced people had regular access to the government’s public distribution of food rations, while another 22 percent said they had “no access at all.”

Despite the pressing humanitarian needs, the IOM report voiced concern that only 25 percent of agency’s $85 million proposal to assist internally displaced people and other vulnerable groups in Iraq has been funded by donor countries.

“We welcome the funding we have received from the donors including the U.S. which has contributed a significant amount to our appeal. But overall the response is a disappointing one, given the scale of the humanitarian crisis and the needs which are so clearly evident,” said IOM chief Brunson McKinley, a former U.S. ambassador.

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