ERBIL, Iraq, August 20 (UNHCR) – A cargo jet carrying 100 tons of emergency relief supplies landed at Erbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region on Wednesday afternoon, launching a massive UN refugee agency aid operation for hundreds of thousands of people caught in Iraq's worsening humanitarian crisis.
Aboard the Boeing 747 from Amman, Jordan were 3,300 tents, 20,000 plastic sheets, 18,500 kitchen sets and 16,500 jerry cans – the first consignment in an operation that aims at bringing in 2,410 tons of aid between now and the start of September.
The aid will target living conditions for almost 500,000 displaced people in the region, many of whom are living rough in unfinished buildings, in parks or by the roadside.
Today's flight will be followed by three others from Jordan on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, carrying 100 tons each. Aid is also on its way by road and sea, with 175 trucks bringing tents, blankets, plastic tarpaulins, and household items across borders from Turkey, Jordan and Iran from UNHCR warehouses in the region and Europe.
"This is a massive logistics operation to bring in relief supplies by air, land and sea to help the hundreds of thousands of desperate people who have fled suddenly with nothing but their lives, and are now struggling to survive in harsh conditions," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
"It's the largest single aid push we have mounted in more than a decade," Guterres said, adding that the combined volume of the emergency supplies on their way to Iraq was 11,306 cubic metres.
Iraq's escalating crisis means that the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq is now hosting more than 600,000 internally displaced civilians, including above 200,000 people who have fled the Sinjar area since early August. UNHCR is working closely with humanitarian partners and the Kurdish authorities in the region to deliver aid.
Once on the ground, many of the airlifted tents will go to Badjet Kandela, Khanke and Zakho camps in Dohuk governorate. Badjet Kandela is being expanded and the other two constructed to house the recent of influx of displaced people. Other emergency supplies will be distributed to people staying in makeshift settlements in Dohuk city, Zakho, Semel town, Akre and Zawita as well as other sites in Erbil and Suleymaniyah governorates in the coming days.
Support for this and further aid deliveries is coming from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Denmark, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the IKEA Foundation, a corporate partner.
Across Iraq, an estimated 1.2 million people have been displaced so far this year, including more than 500,000 from fighting in the Anbar region which began in January, and more than 600,000 displaced from conflicts in and around Mosul (since June) and more recently Sinjar. The majority of the newly displaced are in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.