The untold disaster of Iraqi refugees
By INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE
Noting the Iraq war anniversary this month, the International Rescue Committee (www.theIRC.org) released a report: ''Five Years Later, A Hidden Crisis.'' Below are excerpts.
The war that was launched in Iraq five years ago has produced one of the largest humanitarian crises of our time. Yet this crisis is largely hidden from the public and ignored by the international community. More than four million Iraqis are estimated to be uprooted by horrific violence and death and are in dire need of help. . . .
There is a remarkably wide range of estimates, from 1 million to 2 million, of the number of Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and other host countries. Whatever the exact number, it is substantial -- and their experience has been grim. Before leaving Iraq, many suffered torture, kidnappings and the deaths of loved ones. Many are in danger because they have worked for Americans -- U.S. military, media, contractors and aid agencies.
Single women with children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Others, especially adult men who are unable to work and provide for their families, suffer from depression, anxiety and chronic disease. Many grow increasingly destitute with each passing day.
They need healthcare, housing, jobs and schooling, and safe places for children to play. Instead, they remain isolated, unwanted and insecure, overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness, paralyzed without prospects for a better future.
The world is unaware of the massive scale of this disaster and the deplorable conditions in which these refugees find themselves. The international response has been completely inadequate. Help is urgently needed.
• Displaced refugees need substantial aid delivered effectively and efficiently. The United States should provide $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year toward a global total of $3 billion to $4 billion. This may seem like a large amount, but is minuscule in relation to the hundreds of billions of dollars already spent on the war. The United States should cover half of the anticipated $800 million in appeals from international organizations to help displaced Iraqis inside and outside Iraq in 2008.
• Host countries also need much more help, beginning with at least $900 million in bilateral assistance from the United States to Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. Iraq can provide more reliable deliveries of oil at reduced prices to help neighboring countries that are helping the refugees. European countries and the oil-producing Gulf states can and should contribute.
• The best solution for most of the refugees is to return to their homes in Iraq, but safe repatriation cannot be undertaken now or in the foreseeable future. The international community must work to achieve conditions in Iraq that will allow for the eventual safe, voluntary and sustainable return of many refugees and displaced people to their homes. In the meantime, the international community must recognize that the refugees may have to remain where they are for the medium or long term and require help where they have sought refuge.About This Video