UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
IRAQ: Sectarian violence continues to spur displacement
BAGHDAD, 17 Apr 2006 (IRIN) - Up to 35,000 more individuals have been displaced in the past two weeks due to ongoing sectarian violence, said officials from the Ministry of Displacement and Migration.
“Nearly 70,000 displaced Iraqis, especially from the capital, are living in deteriorating conditions,” said ministry spokesman Sattar Nawruz.
According to ministry officials, the government is providing displaced families with essential materials, including food and medical supplies. Nevertheless, officials express alarm over a rising rate of displacement in recent weeks. “Families are leaving their homes every day because they’re afraid of becoming the next victims of violence,” Nawruz pointed out.
Mazen Saloon, spokesperson for the Iraq Red Crescent Society (IRCS), said the organisation was struggling to help about 5,000 families recently rendered homeless. He added that the needs of the displaced were increasing daily. “We’ve been supplying families with food parcels, potable water, blankets and kerosene – but much more is required,” said Saloon. The IRCS has appealed to a number of international relief organisations for additional assistance.
Many Shi’ite Muslims, recently displaced from the western Anbar governorate and Baghdad, have taken refuge in southern areas, such as Basra, Najaf and Nassriyah. Numerous Sunni Muslim families, meanwhile, from Baghdad and the country’s south, have fled to the cities and villages of Anbar, such as Fallujah, Rawa and Ramadi.
Displaced families complain that sectarian threats are increasing daily. “I have to leave because I received a letter saying that if I don’t leave my district – where I’ve lived for more than 20 years – my family will end up in a cemetery,” said Ahmed Shamari, a Sunni Muslim teacher who resides in a majority-Shi’ite district in the capital.
Some of those fleeing violence have avoided the refugee camps being set up for them, fearing that they, too, could become targets of violence. “These displaced people would rather seek shelter with relatives in safe areas or in abandoned schools or government buildings,” said a volunteer with the IRCS.
Sectarian violence began in earnest on 22 February with the bombing of a revered Shi’ite shrine in Samarra, north of the capital.
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