Five years after war, refugee crisis
Some 2 million Iraqis have fled the country; children afraid to go outside
looms large for Iraq
Amman, Jordan, March 19, 2008
—As the world marks the fifth anniversary of the Coalition invasion of Iraq, World Vision is calling on the international community to address the challenge of 2 million Iraqi refugees who have fled the violence in their country. Another 2.2 million are estimated to be displaced within Iraq.
In 2008, chronic under-funding of United Nations' appeals threatens to force a severe curtailment in the level of services currently offered to refugees by the humanitarian community. Urgent action is needed to ensure adequate education, health care, psychosocial support and basic supplies reach families sheltering in Jordan, Syria and other neighboring countries.
“The scale of the crisis facing the people of Iraq, inside and outside its borders, is so great that its neighbors simply do not have the necessary resources to cope,” said World Vision's advocacy director for the Middle East, Sharon Payt.
According to World Vision staff who have met with refugees in Jordan, many children bear psychological scars from witnessing killings or kidnappings and are often afraid to go outside. Experts say a structured classroom environment provides a healthy routine and support to ease the effects of trauma, but most of the refugee children in Jordan are not able to access education.
Small steps have been taken to improve the lives of those displaced: Jordan has opened up its classrooms to 50,000 Iraqi refugees. Amnesty was issued for those refugees living in Lebanon—hundreds of whom had been imprisoned for many months simply for being refugees. Yet significant gaps remain. World Vision is calling on the international community to:
- Provide full funding for the UN and NGOs like World Vision to provide the additional health care, education, food, supplies and social programs needed for Iraqi refugees.
- Ensure basic protections, religious freedoms and human rights for Iraqi refugees.
- Ensure that borders in the region are kept open to Iraqi families fleeing life-threatening violence, and that religious minorities and other vulnerable groups are not forced to return.
Religious minorities in Iraq, including Christians, are particularly vulnerable. Targeting by religious militias and criminal groups—as was tragically seen last week in the discovery of the body of an abducted Chaldean archbishop—has forced many from the country, raising doubts about the continued presence of these ancient religions in Iraq.
World Vision is reaching 20,000 refugees in Jordan with supplies such as food, mattresses, basic health care items and psychosocial support and education for children.
World Vision staff in Jordan are available for interviews. Please contact Rachel Wolff
at 253.394.2214 or Casey Calamusa
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press.