Christian Aid: Iraqi crisis is 'overwhelming'

Photo: Christian Aid / Madeleine McGivernHalf a million people have been forced to flee to refugee camps in north eastern Iraq as a result of the escalating crisis, adding to those already there as a result of the Syrian conflict.

As hundreds of thousands of civilians flee Mosul in light of an Islamism insurgent takeover, international organisation Christian Aid has launched an appeal to help those in desperate need.

An estimated 500,000 refugees are thought to be seeking safety after members of militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) – a radical faction with links to al-Qaeda - captured the northern city of Mosul, about 250 miles from Baghdad, and other towns last week.

Shocking images of children thought to be no older than 8-years-old toting guns and supporting ISIS's regime have surfaced, while several videos depicting Iraqi civilians and army troops being brutally murdered have also been released.

The UK yesterday made it illegal to associate with the extremist group, although the government has said it will not be taking any military action.  The US is reported to be considering opening up talks with Iran as the situation escalates.

Christian Aid reports that many of those fleeing are heading towards the north east of Iraq, to cities including Dohuk and Erbil. A huge pressure is thus being exerted on the relief services which are already struggling to cope with the sheer number of Syrian refugees seeking solace from their own country's three-year conflict.

"This is a crisis on top of a crisis. Large numbers have fled to an area where there is already a serious humanitarian crisis as a result of the Syrian conflict. Over 220,000 Syrian refugees are already in northern Iraq trying to escape the fighting in their own country," humanitarian programmes manager for Christian Aid, Adrian Ouvry, explained in a statement released yesterday.

He continued: "These emergencies are on a huge scale. There is an overwhelming need for help.

"Christian Aid partners will be stepping up their work to reach the new influx of internally displaced with food, water and hygiene and sanitation kits, with a view to move to longer team need such as cash for work later in the response."

REACH, which partners with Christian Aid to provide help for vulnerable refugee communities, is already working in camps around Sulymaniyah and Erbil. Senior programme officer Hero Anwar has said the immediate needs of the latest arrivals from Mosul would now take priority.

"For now we have to focus on emergency response," she said.

"People cannot stay in a place where they are under threat. They have had to flee their homes with nothing. They need basic items just to survive. With the support from Christian Aid, we are able to respond."