Two small children, a brother and sister, are living alone inside an unfinished school with no walls in northern Iraq. Their parents were killed by the terrorist group ISIS.
These traumatized children are among the tales of tragedy that Catholic Relief Services and other charities are witnessing.
ISIS is not the only enemy these Iraqis face. They are also threatened by hunger and cold. It’s a giant humanitarian emergency that is likely to get much worse. The world must act now to save them.
The U.N. World Food Program says that 2.8 million Iraqis need food aid to survive. WFP is the lead hunger relief agency in Iraq, having fed 1.4 million war victims.
But other Iraqis are living in areas blocked off by the fighting between the government forces and ISIS. WFP and other groups struggle to reach them. So WFP and partner agencies like UNICEF have rapid-response teams, ready to go at a moment’s notice, once access becomes available. This changes fast during wartime.
We do know that Iraqis displaced by this war have lost their livelihoods. They cannot earn a living to support themselves.
The war has disrupted farming. This will lead to more food shortages in the coming year.
The Kurdistan region of northern Iraq is where most of the displaced have fled. This area is under extreme strain from having to take in so many new people. They are also hosting Syrians who fled the civil war in their country.
Iraqis need international food aid to survive. But in the coming months they may not get any. WFP is short on funding to feed the hungry. They need around $235 million in funds.
This is so a displaced Iraqi family, who has lost everything, can get rice and other foods. Or a child can receive high-energy biscuits or Plumpy’Doz, foods that can prevent deadly malnutrition from taking hold.
Think also of the food vouchers WFP supplies to displaced families in Kurdistan. This allows them to purchase food at shops. This also helps the host communities, which are under strain from poverty, too. WFP relies entirely on voluntary donations to provide this food aid.
The world cannot just turn the other way from human suffering. War is escalating in Iraq. The international community has to respond to the cries of help. They need to do it soon.
Marwa Awad, a WFP officer in Iraq, says, “unless more funds are mobilized quickly, WFP will be unable to purchase food in time to cover distributions in March.”
The actions we take now can prevent a famine within Iraq during 2015.
Iraqis need food. They need shelter from the cold of winter. Until the war ends, they will continue to need life-saving aid. Or we may lose an entire generation in Iraq.
Originally published at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.