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UN deputy relief chief Ursula Mueller says humanitarian crisis in Iraq “far from over”

26 Jul 2017
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IDPs arriving at Uruba mustering point in western Mosul in early 2017 [File photo]. Photo: OCHA/ Themba Linden

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, visited Iraq between 24 and 26 July, where she met with senior officials and ministers from the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government, members of the international and humanitarian communities, Yazidi community representatives, and visited displaced communities.

Ms. Mueller travelled to Mosul, where she saw first-hand the complete devastation of districts in the old city in western Mosul. “I saw homes and entire neighbourhoods destroyed; no doubt countless tragedies remain untold among the rubble.”

“I commend the achievements of the humanitarian operation in Iraq and wish to highlight the impressive national response,” said Ms. Mueller. “One of the things that impressed me the most was the exceptional level of cooperation between national counterparts, UN agencies and front-line NGOs.”

Almost 1 million people fled Mosul, surpassing humanitarians’ ‘worst-case’ estimates. Despite escalating needs, humanitarians adjusted their response and kept pace. Emergency sites and camps were built in record time. Over 18,000 people were treated at trauma stabilization points near the front lines. A quarter of a million women, men, girls and boys received psychological first aid and psychosocial support.

“Beyond Mosul, sustained efforts are needed to support the millions of Iraqis displaced across the country,” said Ms. Mueller. “Hundreds of thousands of people will try to return home in the coming months, and must do so in a safe, voluntary and dignified manner. Others will be unable to return home for some time due to the levels of destruction and contamination by explosive hazards in their communities.”

Ms. Mueller also met with representatives from the Yazidi community. “Protection remains a top priority for minority groups in Iraq. The targeting of women – regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation – with rape, enslavement and other forms of violence, is a particularly disturbing feature of this crisis,” said Ms. Mueller.

“One of my key take-aways from this visit is that the humanitarian crisis in Iraq is far from over,” continued the Deputy Emergency Humanitarian Coordinator. “Families lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. I urge the international community to maintain its full commitment to supporting humanitarian assistance in Iraq, and I pledge that the United Nations will continue to stand with and support the Iraqi people.”

Ms. Mueller thanked the international community and donors for their generous support, as a result of which 3.5 million highly vulnerable Iraqis received humanitarian assistance so far, this year. Much more is still needed. The funding requirement of $985 million for humanitarian operations in Iraq for 2017 is not yet half met.