Thursday, March 29, 2007

And They Suffer in the South Too...

Last week I discussed the difficulties internally displaced people (IDP's) were having in the Kurdish north of Iraq; entry restrictions are strict, cost of living is prohibitively high and little to no aid is allocated for those who have fled their homes with little more than the clothes on their back.

Unfortunatly, the Refugees International report I referenced is one of the only places in which the IDP situation is discussed at length. Most U.S., U.N. and even Iraqi institutions fail to even acknowledge that there is an IDP crisis.

The RI report, however, seems to have created a little bit of momentum. Yesterday IraqSlogger published a piece detailing the plight of IDP's in the south of Iraq. According to local officials in the southern provinces, there are nearly a million displaced people in urgent need of food, medicines and municipal services. And unlike the Kurdish north, which is protected by its own security forces, much of the south is plagued by violence. Thus even though aid may be available, often times it cannot be delivered due to security concerns. The south is also considerably poorer than the north and so can offer few jobs to the massive influx of IDP's.

Fareed Abbas, a spokesman for Najaf-based NGO the Muslim Organisation for Peace (MOP), said the central government was unwilling to provide sufficient funds to develop sanitation, education and electricity projects in the southern provinces:
“We have appealed dozens of times to the central government to help in such critical circumstances but we haven’t got any response yet. Instead, over the past few months, their assistance has decreased considerably, leaving people without support and infrastructure."
Dr. Aziz Ali Baroud, a physician at Najaf Main Hospital, explains that the health care system cannot cope with the dramatic increase in people:
At least one person dies in our hospital every day due to lack of assistance or medicines. If you add all the people dying for the same reason in all the hospitals in the southern provinces, the number becomes very serious."
Only recently did the U.S. and international community acknowledge the refugees crisis. It took intense lobbying, multiple public awareness campaigns, tens of op-eds and several Congressional hearings, but eventually the scope and implications of the crisis were appreciated by one and all: The State Department created a displacement task force, the U.S. upped its quota for accepting Iraqi refugees, the Senate included $65 million in their version of the supplemental to deal with the crisis and the international community collectively provided millions more.

With tens of thousands of Iraqis being displaced within Iraq every month, I can only hope that it will not take as long to begin effectively addressing the crisis now that people are becoming aware of its scope. It is a good sign, however, that the Senate version of the supplemental provides $65 million for just Iraqi IDP's alone. We can only hope that whatever ultimately happens to the Senate version -veto or no veto- this provision makes it through to the final spending bill.


One God said...

I wish I could help the refugees of Iraq, North or South. Ironically, here in the Midwest we have empty villages which desperately need people so that we can keep our States going while there are millions of refugees with out decent home, and most without food and water, shelter, and medical care.
Does something seem wrong here! If anyone knows of a way to bring refugees to the empty villages of the Midwest in the United States I would call that person a hero forever. It just does not seem fair!

Emily Stivers said...

One God - Thanks for the comment. Be sure to check our our Action Center. You can personalize a letter to your members of Congress and make that point to them.

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