Iraq: Humanitarian community responds to Mount Sinjar crisis

13 August, 2014
August 2014, Dahuk, Iraq: A Yezidi woman and her daughter. Tens of thousands of people have fled the City of Sinjar escaping advancing armed groups. Credit: UNICEF/Wathiq Khuzaie
August 2014, Dahuk, Iraq: A Yezidi woman and her daughter. Tens of thousands of people have fled the City of Sinjar escaping advancing armed groups. Credit: UNICEF/Wathiq Khuzaie

The United Nations and its humanitarian partners are stepping up their efforts to support those who have escaped Mount Sinjar. This comes as the Secretary-General urged the international community to do more to protect the lives of thousands of people still trapped on the mountain.

“Thousands have succeeded in getting down, but thousands more remain trapped,” said Kieran Dwyer, OCHA’s Director of Communications who is in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region. “It’s critical that we reach these people soon.”

Exposed to extreme heat, dehydration and the imminent threat of attack, people there are in desperate need of life-saving assistance, including food, water and shelter on arrival. Airdrops of food and water are providing some relief, but the situation on the mountain remains dire.

Perilous journey

On 3 August, tens of thousands of ethnic Yazidis from the city of Sinjar fled their homes to the mountain to escape advancing forces of the Islamic State. Upwards of 200,000 more fled northward to Iraq’s Kurdistan Region. They are now displaced in Dahuk Governorate or in the disputed border areas of northern Ninewa Governorate.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 70,000 people have entered Dahuk through the Peshkhabour border crossing in recent days, having crossed into Syria in an effort to avoid danger. This figure includes a large number of people who had escaped from the mountain.

Kurdish authorities are leading the emergency response and, with local and international humanitarian organisations, are providing immediate support to families, including women, children, and the elderly.

Agencies scaling-up

Upon arrival in Dahuk, most people make their way to the town of Zakho or to Bajet-Kandela.

For those arriving in Zakho near the Turkish border, UNHCR has provided 20,000 mattresses and 20,000 blankets. A camp site was identified by the authorities for 15,000 individuals. Local authorities are identifying other sites and working with UNHCR to quickly establish other camps.

UN humanitarian agencies are scaling up their activities to be prepared to care for all those on the mountain in the event they can be safely and securely rescued.