Friday, May 28, 2010

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Half a million displaced Iraqis face grim future in squalid squatter camps

"The alarming spread of illegal squatter settlements has aid groups fearful of a looming social crisis, one which a senior United Nations official considers “the greatest humanitarian problem facing Iraq”.
Recent reports from two international agencies found that of Iraq’s 1.5 million internally displaced people, or IDPs, at least 500,000 have been forced to dwell in squalid squatter camps without access to health care or public services.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, has recorded a sharp increase in squatters since 2009, and activists are demanding the United States and UN stem the problem before it surges out of control.
“We registered 160,000 [squatters] in Baghdad a year ago and this March the number was up to 260,000. This is only for Baghdad, we haven’t published figures for the whole country yet but it’s at least up from 400,000 to 500,000 for the time being,” Daniel Endres, Iraq representative of UNHCR, said.
Interviews by IWPR confirmed the rising numbers of squatter settlements and found that conditions in the camps continue to deteriorate as numbers swell. Although IDPs who fled their homes due to war and sectarian conflict have long been a problem in Iraq, many who spoke to IWPR said they had sheltered in camps due to extreme poverty and joblessness.
“The problem appears to be growing for a number of new reasons, among them the drought and the many people who have lost their livelihoods. We have also found that many refugees who returned recently from other countries have ended up in camps,” Endres said.
“The guiding principles of defining an IDP are broad: you don’t have to be displaced just by war to be an IDP. It can be any event that has thrown you out of your normal life and created a destitute or unlivable situation.”

Iraq's Drinking Water Drying Up, Sewage Pollutes Shrinking Rivers

Baghdad ranks as the worst city in the world

"Baghdad ranked 221st, remaining at the bottom of the list. It was followed by Bangui in the Central African Republic, N'Djamena in Chad, Khartoum in Sudan and Tbilisi in Georgia."


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