UN refugee agency says it still needs $60 million for Mosul response amidst criticism


Displaced people from Mosul taking shelter on the Iraqi-Syrian borderline. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

Erbil The UN Refugee Agency has begun distributing essential winter items to 1.2 million displaced Iraqis, including families recently displaced due to the current Mosul offensive, the UNCHR reported on Wednesday. However, Kurdish officials are doubtful that the UN is ready for Mosul offensive.

A total of 178,000 Syrian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan will also benefit from the UN aid campaign, which started earlier this week. The aid distribution comes despite the fact that the UNHCR’s winter assistance programme, budgeted at $120m, is just half-funded with a $60 million funding gap, the UNCHR said.

Distributions are underway in camps and host communities and will continue until February. UNHCR is providing winter kits comprising six blankets, a heating stove, plastic tarpaulin, kerosene jerry can and a jerry can for water as well as insulation kits to make tents warmer inside. Cash assistance and kerosene are also being provided.

“Winter assistance is vital to ensure that displaced Iraqis and refugees can protect themselves against the cold, and it will be critical for Iraqis displaced from Mosul in the winter months,” said UNHCR’s Iraq Representative Bruno Geddo. 

Over 20,000 people have been displaced since the start of the military offensive by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi Army troops to retake Mosul from ISIS. It’s expected that over one million people will be displaced by the ongoing Mosul operation.

Currently UNHCR has five camps ready to receive people displaced from Mosul and the surrounding towns and villages, including the Hasansham camp and Debaga camp in Erbil province, and Zelikan camp in Dohuk province.

The UNHCR says it has 27,000 tents ready in Iraq that can shelter 162,000 people. This figure will rise to 40,000 tents (240,000 people) by the end of November and 50,000 tents (300,000 people) by mid-December. The agency also plans to supply 50,000 Emergency Shelter Kits which will provide additional shelter solutions.

However, a senior Kurdish official told ARA News that the UN response has been very slow.

“The UNCHR has constructed two camps with the capacity of 4000 families in Duhok and it has decided to construct another camp with the capacity of 1500 families in Erbil. As you know this is not enough, we have been calling and encouraging UN to expedite the process,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

However, the UN told officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that they do not have funding although they have received funding from various sources.

“It is confirmed that UN has received 155 million US dollars only for Mosul. But they are not responsive and they seem to be hiding every information,” the senior official added.

There is criticism that the UN spends the majority of money on the UN itself, instead of building camps. As a result, the KRG is worried that they will have to deal with the majority of the refugee influx on its own. “Therefore little money will remain for the preparedness and response,” the Kurdish official told ARA News.

“The current capacity to shelter people in the Kurdistan Region is only 5,200 plots which can accommodate families, while if all the 10 camps are finished, KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq] can shelter only 228,000 individuals, whereas we are expecting over one million people to be displaced from Mosul and over half a million will come to KRI. Among these 10 camps only three camps will be funded by the UNHCR,” he said. 

The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) representative in Washington, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, told ARA News in an exclusive interview before the Mosul operation that the Kurds have shown remarkable patience and resilience hosting thousands of displaced civilians in the ongoing war against ISIS. But, she says, slowly the Kurds are reaching their limits.

“Kurdistan can’t do more, we can make sure that they are safe, but we don’t have the capacity to give food, shelter, or anything else. This is the responsibility of the UN, Baghdad and the international community,” she said.

Kurdish officials also criticized the UN for lack of coordination with the Kurdish government.

“UN is very reluctant to coordinate with government and we have been encouraging them to do so to ensure a joint and concerted preparedness and response, but they are not listening. Now, we simply do not know what is their capacity and what is available in their stocks,” a Kurdish official said. “We are concerned about what they are doing and what will be their response capacity since they do not share information with us on time or even if they share they share outdated information,” the official added.

Also, the Kurdish President Masoud Barzani said during the start of the Mosul offensive on 17 October that it’s beyond the KRG’s capabilities to cope with a further IDPs influx without help from the UN and the international community.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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