Announced in a State Department press release yesterday, the United States is making an immediate contribution of $125 million to help provide protection and assistance for displaced Iraqis. According to the official statement, "these contributions are part of our large-scale efforts to protect refugees, internally displaced persons, and conflict victims worldwide."
The immediate contributions will include:
- $83 million for the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR)’s $261 million Iraq Situation Supplementary Appeal for 2008. UNHCR will ensure protection and access to essential services and education for displaced Iraqis in Iraq and neighboring countries.
- $2.4 million for the UNICEF portion of the joint UN Education Appeal providing education opportunities to Iraqi children in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.
- $1 million for the UNICEF portion and $2 million for the WHO portion of the Joint United Nations Health Appeal providing medical assistance to Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria and Egypt.
- $5 million for the World Food Program (WFP)’s Emergency Operation distributing basic food rations in Syria.
These contributions are a big step for an administration that has long remained silent on the issue of Iraqi refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). But it is not enough. UNHCR still needs over $100 million this year to meet the needs of Iraqis displaced by violence.
Hopefully, this action will be followed by the U.S. finally taking responsibility for the Iraqi displacement crisis, a humanitarian disaster totalling 4.5 million people, by excepting larger numbers of refugees, including the crisis in public discourse, and making further contributions to the NGOs and governments supporting displaced Iraqis.