Friday, April 4, 2008

UN warns of 'very grave' problems in Iraq

UN warns of 'very grave' problems in Iraq

A top United Nations official warned on Friday of "very grave" humanitarian problems in Iraq, including a lack of food and the internal displacement of more than two million people.

"There are very grave humanitarian problems. The most serious is the internal displacement of the Iraqis ... this is a phenomenon that we believe has slowed down significantly in recent months," UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told a news conference in Amman.

The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that the number of internally displaced Iraqis had risen to more than 2,77-million people by the end of March, five years after the United States-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Two million Iraqis have also fled to neighbouring Jordan and Syria, where social and health services are struggling with the influx.

Holmes, who is in Jordan on his way to Iraq, said basic services in many areas in Iraq "are still deteriorating".

"For example, there are four million people who do not have enough food, only 40% of the population have reliable access to safe drinking water and one third of people are cut off from essential healthcare, life-saving medication and basic immunisation," he said.

According to Holmes, between 4% and 9% of children under five are suffering from acute malnutrition.

"The humanitarian needs have risen significantly ... over the past two years ... we are not encouraging people to return to Iraq at the moment," he said. -- AFP

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