UN agencies in Iraq coordinate efforts to help Syrian refugees fighting bitter cold

Urgent call to fund the humanitarian response for Syrian refugees facing extreme weather in Iraq Erbil, 20 January 2013 - A high-level UN delegation visited the Domiz refugee camp in Dohuk Governorate this week to witness the harsh living conditions of the refugees and to develop a joint coordinated response to the pending needs intensified in the sub-zero temperatures in Domiz. كوردی

The delegation met with the Governor of Dohuk, Mr. Tamar R. Fatah, to thank the Kurdish authorities for the continuous support and request a scale-up of assistance for Syrian refugees in urban communities and refugees in the transit centre.

“Winter and the extreme temperatures currently prevailing in northern Iraq are bringing hardship to Syrian refugees," said the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for Development and Humanitarian Affairs in Iraq, Ms. Jacqueline Badcock. "The United Nations agencies working in Iraq are urging the international community to assist with greater financial support to meet the needs of the most vulnerable,” she added.

The latest figures from UNHCR show that there are currently almost 70,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, the majority of them (close to 45,000) in the Dohuk Governorate in the Kurdistan Region. Since the beginning of 2013, more than 1,000 Syrians are fleeing violence every day, seeking asylum in Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

“There are still 3,000 families living in transit areas", underlined the Representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Ms. Claire Bourgeois. “People fleeing violence have the right to seek protection and we need to make sure that the camps are in a position to accommodate them without further delays,” she added.

The cold weather coupled with unhygienic conditions leaves displaced people more exposed to diseases like flu and respiratory infections. Healthcare services need to be supported inside the camp and in urban settlements, hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees. WHO distributed wheelchairs to people living with disabilities in Domiz camp and handed over a truck full of medicines to the Director General of the Department of Health to cover acute and chronic illnesses.

Children, women and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to winter, with snow and temperatures below zero widespread. To ease the situation and protect children from extreme winter conditions, UNICEF began distribution of more than 4,500 sets of clothes to children under-five this week.

UNHCR, WHO, UNICEF, WFP, UNFPA and IOM, along with the NGO community, are working together to respond to the humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees in Iraq. The UN in Iraq needs without delays US$86 million to broaden its humanitarian response to Syrian refugees until June 2013. “We ask the international community to step up its humanitarian assistance to help Syrian refugees undergoing such extreme conditions,” urged Badcock.

For more information, please contact UNHCR: irqpi@unhcr.org or UNAMI Public Information Office: unami-information@un.org