An extremist army has attacked and taken over the Iraqi city of Mosul, forcing thousands of civilians to flee. The Islamic State of Iraq (ISIL) has links to the Al-Qaeda terrorist group.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is providing aid to 42,000 displaced persons. WFP will be scaling up this response too. Thousands have fled from Mosul to Erbil, which is located in the northern Kurdistan region of Iraq. These war victims are suffering from hunger as food supplies are low.
UNICEF is also reporting that children are lacking other critical life-saving supplies. Hospitals and other basic services are shut down because of the fighting. Marzio Babille, UNICEF Representative in Iraq, says, “The situation is dire and is worsening by the moment. We have to reach children with safe water, shelter, food, and protection – they cannot wait.”
The situation is likely to get worse as violence continues. White House spokeperson Josh Earnest states,
The United States is deeply concerned about the continued aggression of ISIL in Iraq. In addition to the violence in Mosul, we’ve seen the reports and are closely following the ongoing attacks and violence in the Baiji and Tikrit areas, and other parts of northern Iraq. The deterioration in security is rapidly becoming a humanitarian issue and requires a coordinated response by Iraqi leaders from across the country to halt the advances ISIL has made and regain control of territory currently in ISIL’s hands."
WFP is airlifting 550 metric tons of food as part of its initial response to the Mosul emergency. The UN food agency is already providing aid to 240,000 people displaced by conflict in Iraq’s al-Anbar region. In addition, Syrians continue to flee the civil war in their country, with Iraq one of the places of refuge. WFP has been feeding over 100,000 Syrian refugees in Northern Iraq.
WFP relies on voluntary funding and is confronting a fast-growing humanitarian emergency in the Middle East. Jane Pearce, the WFP country director warns, “The crisis in Iraq is escalating quickly. In some areas on the borders between Iraq and Kurdistan where newly displaced people are arriving, there are reports of unavailability of food in the shops. Meeting the food needs of the most vulnerable groups is a crucial step for WFP’s mission in the country."
War inevitably causes hunger and the great fear now is that malnutrition, especially among children, will escalate inside Iraq. With famine threatening Syria, South Sudan and Central African Republic, aid groups are stretched thin in resources.