FACTBOX: Iraqis flee as Sunni extremists advance

by Alex Whiting | @AlexWhi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 19 June 2014 13:13 GMT

A boy who fled from the violence in Mosul stands near tents in a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region. Picture June 14, 2014, REUTERS/Jacob Russell

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What's happening to the tens of thousands of Iraqis who fled fighting in and around Mosul, and what help do they need?

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – At least half a million people have fled fighting in Iraq this month, after a Sunni extremist group backed by other fighters took control of the second-largest city of Mosul and surrounding towns.

Many had to flee within minutes with only the clothes on their backs.

Here’s a round-up of what’s happening:

  • About 300,000 people from Mosul have sought refuge in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq, according to Kurdistan authorities. Most of them are sheltering with friends and family.
  • Aid agencies say the Kurdistan region will struggle to cope with the new influx. It already hosts many who have fled fighting in Anbar province since January this year, and more than 220,000 Syrian refugees. Some areas are experiencing food shortages in local markets, and disruption of electricity and water services, according to the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department.
  • Some of the displaced are staying in parks, schools and mosques, rented accommodation, or displacement camps.
  • The displaced urgently need water, shelter, food and emergency healthcare.
  • The ongoing fighting, as well as massive traffic jams and blocked roads, make it hard for aid agencies to reach the vulnerable. Medical charity MSF said its clinic in the city of Tikrit was shelled on June 13, disrupting medical care for at least 40,000 displaced people.
  • The most vulnerable people are those left behind, says Save the Children. People in Mosul need food, water, hygiene kits and fuel.  
  • Half of those displaced this year are children. Many have missed their end of school year exams, and need routine vaccinations. Iraq recorded its first polio case earlier this year, after 14 years of being polio free.
  • Overall, at least 1 million people in Iraq have been displaced by fighting this year – half of them by violence in Anbar province which began in December last year. A further 1.1 million people are still displaced from the period when violence soared between 2006 and 2008.

Sources: International Organization of Migration, World Health Organization, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Save the Children, European Commission Humanitarian Aid, Norwegian Refugee Council

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