Oxfam’s humanitarian work in Iraq is restricted due to heightened security concerns, road checkpoints and travel difficulties, following Iranian missile attacks on US military bases in Iraq overnight in retaliation for the US killing of the Iranian General Suleimani.
“We have had to suspend work in three locations where we were delivering cash aid to people in need of help. If we have to continue the suspension for a few weeks more, 100,000 of the most vulnerable people will be affected,” Oxfam Iraq Country Director Andres Gonzalez Rodriguez said.
“Oxfam is one of the few international agencies working in hard-to-reach areas affected by the latest conflict. As far as possible, we will try to keep our humanitarian work going with our partners around the country. However, we have had to relocate some staff and we are keeping all our staff, partners and work under close observation due to the heightened security concerns.”
Oxfam runs 26 humanitarian and development programs in five governorates in Iraq, specializing in water and sanitation, emergency food, cash and gender programs and protection work. Oxfam and its partners reach over a million people in Iraq with this aid.
Oxfam has closed its offices, including in Irbil, and asked staff to work from their homes and avoid travel.
“The Oxfam office in Irbil is just three kilometres away from where the missile hit the airport. Staff heard the rockets overhead and some saw the impact. Staff in our Ramadi office saw the missile passing over Ramadi city before it hit the Ain al-Asad military base,” added Gonzalez Rodriguez.
“All parties to this conflict are obliged to work hard to de-escalate the crisis and to build peace in order to spare the Middle East region further humanitarian suffering. People who have already suffered decades of war and deprivation will bear the brunt of further conflict and cannot endure another blow. The impacts of another regional conflict on tens of millions of civilians in the Middle East and beyond will be catastrophic and push an over-burdened humanitarian system to breaking point.”
In the Middle East and North Africa over 18 million people have already been forced from their homes due to violence and persecution – over a quarter of all the displaced people in the world. Iran hosts nearly a million refugees from Afghanistan – a war which began nearly two decades ago and shows little sign of abating.
Oxfam Canada urges all parties involved to show restraint, to respect humanitarian law and allow unfettered humanitarian access to those in need, regardless of perceived affiliations. Now is the time for cooler heads to prevail and the work of de-escalation to begin.
“International law imposes a clear obligation on states to protect the lives and safety of civilians,” Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America Humanitarian Policy Lead said. “The international community must speak up boldly in defense of these fundamental principles and remind our leaders that it is their responsibility to prevent further human suffering. We hope that in these tense days, leaders recognize that saving lives is more important than saving face.”
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Notes to editor:
- Oxfam supports 1,042,086 persons of the most vulnerable people living in Iraq, working together with 13 local partner organizations to provide cash and income generation support as well as water, sanitation and protection services. We also work with partners on Women’s Rights, Water rehabilitation, Protection, and Advocacy.
- Oxfam has 26 programs in five governorates: Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Anbar, and Salahaddin governorates.