IMAGE: Iraqi family in refugee camp
Alaa al-Marjani  /  AP file
A family stands outside their tent at the refugee camp they have called home for the last year in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, on Monday
updated 7/30/2007 5:33:44 AM ET 2007-07-30T09:33:44

About 8 million Iraqis — nearly a third of the population — need immediate emergency aid because of the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, relief agencies said Monday.

Those Iraqis are in urgent need of water, sanitation, food and shelter, said the report by Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee network in Iraq.

The report said 15 percent of Iraqis cannot regularly afford to eat, and 70 percent are without adequate water supplies, up from 50 percent in 2003. It also said 28 percent of children are malnourished, compared with 19 percent before the 2003 invasion.

“Basic services, ruined by years of war and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people,” said Jeremy Hobbs, the director of Oxfam International. “Millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee the violence, either to another part of Iraq or abroad. Many of those are living in dire poverty.”

The report said more than 2 million people — mostly women and children — have been displaced within Iraq, and 2 million Iraqis have fled the country as refugees, mostly to neighboring Syria and Jordan.

‘More can and should be done’
Hobbs urged Iraq’s government, the United Nations and the international community to do more to help Iraqis, despite the risk of the war’s widespread violence involving coalition forces and insurgents.

“The Iraqi government must commit to helping Iraq’s poorest citizens, including the internally displaced, by extending food parcel distribution and cash payments to the vulnerable. Western donors must work through Iraqi and international aid organizations and develop more flexible systems to ensure these organizations operate effectively and efficiently,” Hobbs said.

Oxfam has not operated in Iraq since 2003 for security reasons, but a survey it published in April found that more than 80 percent of aid agencies working in the country could do more if they had more money.

Some humanitarian organizations refuse money from governments with troops in Iraq, on the grounds of security and independence.

“The fighting and weak Iraqi institutions mean there are severe limits on what humanitarian work can be carried out. Nevertheless, more can and should be done to help the Iraqi people,” Hobbs said.

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