Humanitarian agencies of the United Nations (UN) are sounding an appeal; $85 million is needed to combat illness and malnutrition among more than 2 million Iraqis who have fled war and violence in their country.
The U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.N. children's agency UNICEF say the funds thus received would be used to improve access to reproductive and child health care, as well as treatment for cancer patients, trauma victims and amputees.
In a press release, the agencies said that vaccination cover and malnutrition management were the need of the hour. Unemployment and economic woes among the displaced have given rise to malnutrition, the agencies said.
"The health needs of more than 2 million displaced Iraqis should not be ignored. Many are survivors of violence and have serious medical conditions," the agencies were quoted. They stressed that Iraqis streaming into Syria, Jordan and other countries over the past year had "put an enormous strain" on host governments. "The burden on their health systems has become overwhelming and requires immediate and urgent support from the international community", the agencies added.
Meanwhile, Radhouane Nouicer, UNHCR's director for the Middle East and North Africa, stated that the health appeal showed that the situation in Iraq was gaining wider attention and required more support.
"A more robust intervention by the international community through bilateral and multilateral channels is needed," he added.
The large numbers of Iraqi refugees who have arrived in Syria and Jordan over the past year have put an enormous strain on the already overstretched public services in those countries and pose major challenges to the host governments as well as local and international organizations.
"In Syria alone, hundreds of Iraqi amputees need prostheses and thousands of cancer patients and trauma victims need specialized treatment.
"Access to hospital care is limited. Gaps have arisen in the national health information and disease surveillance systems, which increase the risk of vaccine preventable diseases," the agencies added.