PSA: The Humanitarian Void in Iraq

by matttbastrard

From Refugees International:

Uprooted and Unstable in Iraq

“We are getting tired,” an Iraqi mother told Refugees International on our recent mission inside Iraq. “We just need a decent house to live in and decent food to live off of…” This woman and her family live rent-free in a house provided by the Sadrist movement after being forced from their home. Refugees International found that Iraqi militias are the main providers of food, clothing, oil and other basic resources to 2.7 million internally displaced Iraqis, because the Iraqi government and international community are failing to assist them. Our report, Uprooted and Unstable: Meeting Urgent Humanitarian Needs in Iraq, cautions that if this problem is not addressed, it will have dire consequences for the humanitarian and security situation in Iraq. The report recommends that aid organizations, including the UN, partner with local groups inside Iraq, and discourages refugee returns until more effective aid channels are established.

Also read Five Years Later, A Hidden Crisis, a new report issued by the International Rescue Committee’s Commission on Iraqi Refugees.

Related: via Feminist Peace Network, IRIN press release:

A study published in March by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on the mental state of Iraqis in Jordan and Lebanon has pointed to mounting social and economic problems as the cause of increased domestic violence.

[…]

“Most families prefer to sweep their problems under the carpet because [to them] reputation matters more than anything else,” said Shankul Kader from the Jordanian-Iraqi Brotherhood Society, a non-governmental organisation trying to help the Iraqi community in Jordan.

“The fact that most men are forced to stay at home due to the lack of jobs, and the lack of social interaction among the refugees, has heightened tension in households,” the study said. It revealed that 15 percent of women interviewed in female-only focus groups reported an increase in family violence.

“A well-raised Iraqi woman should tolerate everything in silence… My husband has no other way to get rid of his anger,” one woman told researchers.

Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, over half a million Iraqis have moved to Jordan, hoping to return home when things improve.

Most Iraqis in Jordan are middle class, but over the years their savings have run down, and there are few jobs. Only about 22 percent of Iraqi adults in Jordan work; the rest are jobless, according to a recent study by the Norway-based FAFO Institute for Applied International Studies.

A large number of Iraqis rely on financial aid from relatives outside the Middle East, mostly in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Sweden, while others rely on temporary jobs, as immigration rules prevent them from holding permanent jobs.

“Men resort to violence because of social and economic pressures. Iraqis in Jordan are living in constant worry about their future,” Shankul said.

Activists involved in helping Jordanian women survive domestic violence say their doors are open to Iraqi women. Asma Khader, a women’s rights activist and lawyer, said the Jordan Federation for Women is engaged in activities to help abused Iraqi women. “Social barriers remain the biggest challenge in tackling domestic problems,” she told IRIN.

Also see “Terrible things happened to me”: Violence against Iraqi women and girls and Voices of Iraqi Refugee Women and Girls in Jordan, both from the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, which also produced the following video on gender-based violence against Iraqi women and girls in Jordan:

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PSA: Iraq Refugee Crisis – “Iraqi women and children have suffered terrible trauma and violence – we have a responsibility to care for their health. The international community must act now to alleviate this situation.”

by matttbastard

Via Feminist Peace Network:

Iraqi refugee women and youth: Sick and suffering – U .S. and International Community must support health sector appeal

September 24, 2007—The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children today called on the United States and the international community to respond quickly and fully to the United Nations interagency appeal for $85 million dollars to provide desperately needed health care for Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria and Egypt.

On a recent trip to Jordan, the Women’s Commission saw firsthand the urgent need for this assistance. Iraqi refugees have limited or no access to even basic health services. The cost of accessing health care is beyond the means of most refugees. At the time of our visit in June, there were only two clinics providing free or subsidized medical care to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Jordan.

The barriers to affordable health care have dire implications for Iraqi refugees. They are not getting the treatment they need for chronic conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure or cancer and women and girls are not receiving critical reproductive health services. The longer this endures, the greater the number of lives at risk.

“The health situation for Iraqi refugees is unconscionable and women and children are in particular need given the vulnerability of their situation,” said Carolyn Makinson, Executive Director. “Iraqi women and children have suffered terrible trauma and violence – we have a responsibility to care for their health. The international community must act now to alleviate this situation.”

Iraqi women and girls’ health needs particular attention. In Iraq, women and girls have been targets of sexual violence, including rape. They are now suffering the double burden of the trauma they experienced and forced displacement from their homes. According to the refugees the Women’s Commission met with in Jordan, the stresses and pressures of refugee life are also causing a rise in domestic violence. And because refugees cannot legally work in Jordan, women and girls remain vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse. For all these reasons, women and girls must have easy and regular access to medical attention and psychological and social support services for survivors of rape and abuse.

In addition to fully supporting this new health appeal and an earlier education appeal, the U.S. government and international community must also develop a more comprehensive assistance strategy for Iraqi refugees that reflects the magnitude of the refugee crisis. This should include significantly increased humanitarian assistance for refugees, greater support for refugee receiving countries, and robust resettlement programs for highly vulnerable Iraqis.

“Iraqi refugees are becoming more vulnerable by the day,” Makinson said. “The time to act is now.”

For more information, to arrange an interview or to view B-roll footage, please contact Diana Quick, 212. 551. 3087, diana@womenscommission.org

Also see this report from Amnesty International, Millions in flight: the Iraqi refugee crisis (also via FPN); Refugees International on ‘the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis‘.

Related: Interview with Tobias Billström, Sweden’s Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy, on how the EU needs to share the responsibility for providing safe haven to Iraqi refugees – and how aid must be allocated to Syria and Jordan, the two Middle Eastern nations with the highest influx of refugees:

Sometimes I think it is an irony that Sweden – a country that did not take part in the Iraq War, was not part of the alliance, did everything it could in order to speak for peace, and is farthest away from the conflict in geographical terms – receives the most refugees. To my mind that is rather strange.

[…]

In some ways we have made progress. But the next thing – and that is important – is to try and bring aid to Syria and to Jordan, the two countries in the region that have received a combined total of more than two million Iraqi refugees.

If we don’t do that, sooner or later there will be a political destabilisation of Syria and Jordan, which will lead to even more problems. We must ensure that the refugees receive aid and that they can sustain themselves.

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