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8 million Iraqis 'need urgent aid'

  • Story Highlights
  • One in three Iraqis need water, sanitation, food and shelter, relief agencies say
  • Relief agencies say humanitarian crisis worsened since U.S.-led invasion
  • Report found about 43 percent of Iraq's population endure "absolute poverty"
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- About eight million Iraqis -- nearly a third of the population -- are without water, sanitation, food and shelter and need emergency aid, a report by two major relief agencies says.

Oxfam and the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Coordination Committee in Iraq have issued a briefing paper that says violence in Iraq is masking a humanitarian crisis that has worsened since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

The paper, called "Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq," is the latest documentation of the misery faced by Iraqis.

"Eight million people are in urgent need of emergency aid; that figure includes over two million who are displaced within the country, and more than two million refugees. Many more are living in poverty, without basic services, and increasingly threatened by disease and malnutrition," said the relief agencies' report. The population of Iraq is 26 million.

It said that not addressing the needs of Iraqis in urgent need of water, sanitation, food and shelter would further create more unrest in the country.

"Despite the constraints imposed by violence, the government of Iraq, the United Nations, and international donors can do more to deliver humanitarian assistance to reduce unnecessary suffering. If people's basic needs are left unattended, this will only serve to further destabilize the country."

The report found that about 43 percent of Iraq's population endure "absolute poverty," and that more than half "are now without work."

Child malnutrition rates have jumped from 19 percent before the invasion four years ago to 28 percent now, and there are two million internally displaced people, many of whom have no or little access to food rations.

The number of Iraqis "without access to adequate water supplies" is 70 percent, up from 50 percent since 2003. The country continues to suffer a "brain drain."

While ending the warfare is the biggest priority, Iraq's government, the coalition nations, U.N. agencies and international donors can do more to deal with this problem, the report said.

It made a number of recommendations including suggesting that those in need deserve greater help from local authorities, that households headed by widows need a payment increase and that there should be new I.D. cards to enable displaced people to get food rations.

The briefing paper also stressed that Iraqi security forces should be ordered not to "harm civilian life, property, or infrastructure, and should respect the population's right to assistance."

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The relief groups called on countries not involved in the Iraq war to increase funding to the country.

"Since many humanitarian organizations will not accept money from governments engaged in the conflict, it is important that donors from other countries, such as Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland, increase their funding for humanitarian action." the report said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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