OXFAM Briefing Paper, Jul 07: Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq
While horrific violence dominates the lives of millions of ordinary people inside Iraq, another kind of crisis, also due to the impact of war, has been slowly unfolding. Up to eight million people are now in need of emergency assistance. This figure includes:

• four million people who are ‘food-insecure and in dire need of different types of humanitarian assistance’

• more than two million displaced people inside Iraq

• over two million Iraqis in neighbouring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan, making this the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world.

This paper describes the humanitarian situation facing ordinary Iraqis and argues that, while violence and a failure to protect fundamental human rights pose the greatest problems, humanitarian needs such as food, shelter, water and sanitation must be given more attention. Although responding to those needs is extremely challenging, given the lack of security and of competent national institutions, Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI) believe that more could be done. The government of Iraq could extend the distribution of food parcels, widen the coverage of emergency cash payments, decentralise decision-making and support civil society groups providing assistance. The international donors and UN agencies could intensify their efforts to coordinate, fund and deliver emergency aid. These measures will not transform the plight of Iraqis but they can help alleviate their suffering. The paper focuses on needs inside the country, which are less visible, and does not refer in detail to the refugees in neighbouring countries.