Dangerous Humanitarian Situation in Iraq

  • 6 April 2008

It is an established fact that the humanitarian situation in Iraq has been bad in the wake of security challenges facing the country since 2003.  However, recent UN figures have raised fresh alarm by shifting its focus from the refugee issue, which it has been concerned about for quite some time, and focusing on the worsening issues related to healthcare and malnourishment that affects millions of Iraqis at present.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) raised the alarm last Tuesday by observing that the problem of mass displacement of Iraqis was showing no signs of abatement, as three million Iraqis have already been displaced internally, and over two million more having emigrated abroad since 2003. The second warning was issued two days ago by Sir John Holmes, Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who said that about four million Iraqis were undernourished. In addition, he disclosed that about 40% of Iraqi citizens had no access to clean drinking, whereas a third of Iraqi citizenry was deprived of proper medical care.

These alarming figures point to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Iraq, primarily because of security disruptions that have hampered the rebuilding process and has denied government establishments from carrying out their functions properly. In addition, these humanitarian crises have been exacerbated by  political differences that are delaying the passage of necessary legislation that are important for properly addressing these issues. Therefore, the political and economic machinery remains paralyzed, which is itself a result of sectarian and ethnic tensions.

The nature of the humanitarian problems facing Iraq is different from humanitarian problems facing other countries around the world. This problem is not due to a paucity in resources because the country is oil-rich and has enormous energy reserves. The main reason holding the country back relates to political and security issues that prevent it from exploiting its resources in the interest of Iraqi people, be it in the form of direct targeting of petroleum pipelines and oil facilities or bottlenecks caused by differences over the distribution of oil wealth and its exploitation by different regions of Iraq, especially in the north and south of the country.

Without understating the importance of international aid in confronting this dangerous humanitarian crisis in Iraq, the solution to the problem lies in the realization of a national agreement that resolves political differences, settles security issues and manages the exploitation of the national wealth by making it the property of all Iraqis, and not of any particular region.