Women and Children at Increasing Risk from Effects of Violence in Iraq, Says IOM

Date Publish: 
Monday, November 20, 2006 - 16:00
Region-Country: 
Switzerland
Europe and Central Asia
© IOM 2006

An IOM report published today finds that single women, children,
the elderly and the sick who have been displaced by recent
sectarian violence in Iraq are most at risk as they are left
without adequate support and care with winter now fast approaching.

The report on three governorates, part of IOM’s on-going
Governorate Needs Assessment programme, shows that even in the
comparatively stable Qadissiya governorate some 200 kilometres
south of Baghdad, 11 percent of the displaced are widows left alone
to fend for themselves and their children. Lack of economic
opportunities for women and the gradual breakdown of a traditional
support system means women are facing an increasingly difficult
life.

Expecting single mothers are particularly at risk of
jeopardizing the health of their unborn child as most are too poor
to afford proper food rations and cannot access adequate medical
and prenatal care.

Some children are now having to look for work or beg in order to
help the family survive. In Wassit governorate, the situation is
similar for children from especially poor displaced families. Apart
from begging, children are employed to sell products, work in
agriculture or in manual labour.

The report notes that in the volatile Salah Al-Din governorate,
which centres on the towns of Tikrit and Samarra, most displaced
female-headed households, single pregnant women, the elderly and
the sick struggle for survival without proper access to shelter,
food, water and medical assistance.

Children are especially affected, with a lack of food leading to
malnutrition and an increase in preventable diseases and
infections. Furthermore, the report underlines that the constant
strain and tension due to insecurity and violence is causing long
term psychological trauma for the children who are not receiving
adequate psychosocial support.

The conflict has also led to an increase in divorce and domestic
violence in the governorate, the report noted.

"What is worrying and increasingly being reported back from our
staff and partners in the field is that traditional coping
mechanisms are not only being stretched to the limit but are
starting to break down," said Rafiq Tschannen, IOM’s Chief of
Mission for Iraq.

As in several other conflict-affected governorates, the report
on Salah Al-Din, Wassit and Qadissiya confirms that a majority of
families rent accommodation that lack basic facilities, such as
sanitation, water and electricity. Assessments also confirm that
shelter is the number one priority for internally displaced people
(IDPs), followed by access to work and food.

IOM has now compiled the first nine of 15 governorate reports to
identify and prioritize areas of operation, plan emergency
responses, and design long-term, durable solutions for recent
population displacements.  These governorate reports can be
accessed at "http://www.iomiraq.net/idp.html" target="_blank" title=
"">http://www.iomiraq.net/idp.html.

The number of Iraqis displaced by violence since the bombing in
Samarra in late February has now increased to almost 250,000
individuals in the 15 central and southern governorates with over
1,000 people on average being displaced a day in September, October
and November.

Since 2003, IOM has been assessing those displaced in the 15
governorates. Following the Samarra bombing and subsequent
escalation of displacement in February 2006, IOM has focused its
monitoring activities on the recently-displaced.

IOM monitors visit IDP community leaders, local NGOs, local
government bodies, and individual IDP families to assess a number
of issues and needs, including food, healthcare, water and
sanitation, documentation, and property, and the future intentions
of the IDPs.

Since February, the Organization has also been carrying out
emergency distributions of food, non-food items and water
assistance to the recently-displaced with funding from the US
government but is urgently seeking USD 20 million to continue its
work, especially as displacement continues unabated.

For more information, please contact:

Rafiq Tschannen

IOM Chief of Mission for Iraq

E-mail: "mailto:rtschannen@iom.int">rtschannen@iom.int 

Dana Graber

IDP Monitoring and Reintegration Officer for Iraq

E-mail: "mailto:dgraber@iom.int">dgraber@iom.int

Jemini Pandya

IOM Geneva

Tel: + 41 22 717 9486

Mobile: + 41 79 217 3374