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UN humanitarian assistance continues despite insecure conditions in Iraq

19 November 2004, UN News Center - The United Nations continues to deal with the Iraqi Interim Government and the humanitarian community to coordinate and provide emergency assistance to civilians inside and displaced around Fallujah, a UN spokesman said today.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have provided emergency stocks, which are being mobilized for distribution in and around Fallujah, Fred Eckhard told reporters at a news briefing in New York.

The supplies include chlorine, soap, jerry cans, tents and winterization supplies, as well as blood bags and dressing provided by the World Health Organization (WHO).

"These activities are taking place despite constraints in obtaining access to people in need," the spokesman said. "As access improves, UN agencies and partners stand by to provide additional services, including water trucking, medical supplies and technical assistance."

Meanwhile at a briefing in Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said that despite " the extremely dangerous situation and restricted access" in the Fallujah region, the agency had managed to assist about 4,000 Iranian Kurds in Altash camp, which is close to Ramadi, but not far from Fallujah itself.

Partners of the UN agency are providing water, sanitation items and food to the Iranian refugees, the majority of whom had opted to remain in the camp in spite of continued insecurity in the region.

Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been displaced by the fighting in Fallujah. UNHCR is unable to monitor the situation or assess the information coming out of the region. "We remain extremely concerned about the displaced population," said Mr. Redmond.

In quieter parts of Iraq, however, UNHCR is continuing to help refugees. In the past 10 days, the agency brought more than 800 people from Iran to northern and southern Iraq. Overall, the agency has so far helped more than 18,000 Iraqi refugees in returning home.

"We must stress, however, that UNHCR is not encouraging returns to Iraq at this stage because of the fragile situation in the country," said Mr. Redmond. "We only facilitate the repatriation of Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries who are determined to go back despite the difficulties in their homeland."

... Payvand News - 11/20/04 ... --

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