Statement / International Organization on Migration – 2006-11-23 23:37:01
Women and Children at Increasing
Risk from Effects of Violence in Iraq
Statement, International Organization on Migration
GENEVA (22 November 2006) — An IOM report published today finds that single women, children, the elderly and the sick who have been displaced by recent sectarian violence in Iraq are most at risk as they are left without adequate support and care with winter now fast approaching.
The report on three governorates, part of IOM’s on-going Governorate Needs Assessment programme, shows that even in the comparatively stable Qadissiya governorate some 200 kilometres south of Baghdad, 11 percent of the displaced are widows left alone to fend for themselves and their children. Lack of economic opportunities for women and the gradual breakdown of a traditional support system means women are facing an increasingly difficult life.
Expecting single mothers are particularly at risk of jeopardizing the health of their unborn child as most are too poor to afford proper food rations and cannot access adequate medical and prenatal care.
Some children are now having to look for work or beg in order to help the family survive. In Wassit governorate, the situation is similar for children from especially poor displaced families. Apart from begging, children are employed to sell products, work in agriculture or in manual labour.
_The report notes that in the volatile Salah Al-Din governorate, which centres on the towns of Tikrit and Samarra, most displaced female-headed households, single pregnant women, the elderly and the sick struggle for survival without proper access to shelter, food, water and medical assistance.
Children are especially affected, with a lack of food leading to malnutrition and an increase in preventable diseases and infections. Furthermore, the report underlines that the constant strain and tension due to insecurity and violence is causing long term psychological trauma for the children who are not receiving adequate psychosocial support.
The conflict has also led to an increase in divorce and domestic violence in the governorate, the report noted.
“What is worrying and increasingly being reported back from our staff and partners in the field is that traditional coping mechanisms are not only being stretched to the limit but are starting to break down,” said Rafiq Tschannen, IOM’s Chief of Mission for Iraq.
As in several other conflict-affected governorates, the report on Salah Al-Din, Wassit and Qadissiya confirms that a majority of families rent accommodation that lack basic facilities, such as sanitation, water and electricity.
Assessments also confirm that shelter is the number one priority for internally displaced people (IDPs), followed by access to work and food.
IOM has now compiled the first nine of 15 governorate reports to identify and prioritize areas of operation, plan emergency responses, and design long-term, durable solutions for recent population displacements. These governorate reports can be accessed at http://www.iom-iraq.net/idp.html.
The number of Iraqis displaced by violence since the bombing in Samarra in late February has now increased to almost 250,000 individuals in the 15 central and southern governorates with over 1,000 people on average being displaced a day in September, October and November.
Since 2003, IOM has been assessing those displaced in the 15 governorates. Following the Samarra bombing and subsequent escalation of displacement in February 2006, IOM has focused its monitoring activities on the recently-displaced.
IOM monitors visit IDP community leaders, local NGOs, local government bodies, and individual IDP families to assess a number of issues and needs, including food, healthcare, water and sanitation, documentation, and property, and the future intentions of the IDPs.
Since February, the Organization has also been carrying out emergency distributions of food, non-food items and water assistance to the recently-displaced with funding from the US government but is urgently seeking USD 20 million to continue its work, especially as displacement continues unabated.
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