UN Closes Iraq Health Programmes for Lack of Funding

The United Nations has suspended health programmes reaching a million people across Iraq because of massive under-funding, it said on Monday. 

The UN said in a statement that "184 front-line health services have been suspended because of the paralysing funding shortfall for humanitarian activities in Iraq". 

"More than 80 percent of general health programmes supported by humanitarian partners are now shut, directly impacting one million people," it said. 

"At a time when the people of Iraq need us the most, we are letting them down," the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, said. 

The UN said that the lack of funding meant that half a million children would not be immunised, leading to a risk of measles outbreak and the re-emergence of polio. 

The funding shortfall had already led to the sharp reduction of food rations for one million people. 

Around a third of water, sanitation and hygiene programmes had already been closed and more will suffer the same fate by the end of July, it said. 

Among the other consequences of the funding crisis, the UN said its programmes assisting women and girls who have survived sexual violence would also be cut back. 
On 4 June, the UN launched an appeal for half a billion dollars to tackle the spiralling humanitarian crisis in Iraq, where conflict has displaced more than three million people since the start of 2014. 

"To date, only 15 percent of this has been secured," the UN said, despite what it said was the most "pared-to-the bone appeal ever launched in the region". 

Grande had warned at the time that 10 million Iraqis were likely to need life-saving assistance by the end of 2015. 

"Although some support is coming in, it's devastating, inexplicable really, that we are being forced to shut down programmes in a country where so much is at stake and where the international community is so involved," Grande said in Monday's statement. 

The first major wave of displacement came when the Islamic State (IS) took control of parts of Anbar province in early 2014. 

IS's nationwide offensive in June last year brought Iraq to the brink of collapse. 

While Iraqi forces, backed by a US-led coalition and neighbouring Iran, have clawed back some land, several regions remain wracked by violence and few of the displaced are able to return to their homes. 

by AFP

The heat is on: Surviving summer in an Iraqi camp

Fa'iza escaped from Mosul when the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) invaded. She has breast cancer and her symptoms are made worse by the extreme heat. It's 46 degrees Celsius in Baharka, a camp for displaced Iraqis in the northern Kurdistan region, and the mother-of-five is fraught.

A long power cut has rendered her fan motionless for most of the morning. “I am sick,” she says. “And this heat makes it much harder.” The war against ISIS has forced 3.1 million Iraqis to flee their homes.

An additional 251,000 Syrians are registered as refugees in Iraq. After facing floods, snow and ice this past winter, the summer has brought sandstorms and highs of 50 degrees Celsius. Some 250,000 displaced Iraqis and 100,000 Syrian refugees are living outside in camps under canvases and patchworks of tarpaulins and blankets which barely shield them from the blistering summer heat. 

“We have no other choice but to cope,” says Khudair, who fled from ISIS-occupied Fallujah and now lives in Hayy al-Jamiyah, a camp in Baghdad run by the local Sunni community. “Living in this camp is our best option. The air cooler truly helps,” he says, adding: “We take a minimum of two showers per day.”

The impact of the heat is severe. “During the summer, we usually see an increase in [deaths] as a result of gastroenteritis,” says Mostafa Munjid, a doctor with the International Medical Corps who oversees medical care in four displacement and refugee sites. 

“Sometimes because of the camp situation and storage of food; sometimes because of contamination of water,” Munjid explains. In Baharka, the camp in northern Iraq, the tactics are similar to Baghdad. “We distributed air coolers,” says camp manager Ahmed Ramadan Abdul of local NGO the Barzani Charity Foundation. “They can use them if there is electricity.” 

Ahmed hopes a donor will provide a second generator for the camp to allow more people to benefit. But the use of the air coolers is problematic even if there is electricity. They use between 100 and 160 litres of water per day. International organisations are advised against providing them, to avoid burdening infrastructure. 

A scuffle broke out last week, for example, between two families in Erbil's Kawergosk refugee camp vying for a share of the sporadic water supply. Originally constructed in August 2013 as a transit camp for 6,000 people, Kawergosk is now home to more than 10,000 Syrian refugees. 

Built by the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, and managed by the Danish Refugee Council, the infrastructure is under extra pressure during the summer months, raising tensions in the camp. Three boreholes work continuously to provide water; trucks deliver an additional 80,000 to 100,000 litres every day. 

Power is supplied for a predictable 19 hours per day, but water is available for only four hours, and at erratic times. “For two years, we have all been fighting over water,” says Siham Mohammad Yasin, head of the Kawergosk residents’ Water, Sanitation and Hygiene committee. Water pressure is patchy and the inequality causes divisions.