by Gladys Terichow
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has committed an additional $444,000 Cdn, or $400,000 U.S., to help the growing numbers of Iraqis uprooted from their homes by persistent violence and civil tensions.
An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 Iraqis each month are forced to seek shelter and refuge within their homeland or neighbouring countries. About two million Iraqis have fled to Syria and Jordan, whose governments are struggling to support the influx of Iraqis, and another two million are uprooted within their homeland.
MCC's workers in the region are currently collaborating with partner organizations in Iraq, Syria and Jordan to identify specific projects that will assist the vulnerable, said Rick Janzen, co-director of MCC's program in the Middle East.
The vulnerable-the elderly, children, people with disabilities, female-headed households and ethnic and religious minorities-are among those who suffer the most when civilians are driven from their homes by conflict, said Janzen.
MCC is also sending seven shipping containers of material aid, including 4,200 relief kits, 11,000 newborn kits, 22,000 school kits and 16,000 blankets to Iraq to be distributed by local humanitarian agencies working with vulnerable people in Baghdad and surrounding communities.
MCC's material resources manager, David Martin, said three containers of blankets and newborn kits have already arrived in Jordan and are being transported to Baghdad by trucks. Three containers of school kits and relief kits will be shipped from the Ephrata warehouse in Pennsylvania in early May and the last container will soon be shipped from the Plum Coulee warehouse in Manitoba.
Ed Wiebe, coordinator of MCC Canada's refugee sponsorship program, noted that a conference in Geneva in April, sponsored by the United Nations' refugee agency, called for a sustained, comprehensive and coordinated international response to ease the plight of nearly four million Iraqis uprooted by the conflict.
The United Nations' refugee agency is promoting resettlement for 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees. In response to this appeal Canada has agreed to accept 500 more refugees from Iraq, bringing Canada's commitment to1,400 this year, said Wiebe.
Two MCC representatives were among the delegates from more than 60 countries who attended this major international conference in Geneva and are monitoring the refugee situation, said Wiebe.
Gladys Terichow is a writer for MCC.