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Monday, February 27, 2017
Irish aid agency to help Iraqis escape conflict through minefields
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 Trócaire yesterday announced funding for a programme which will ensure vital escape routes for tens of thousands of victims of war in Iraq. As many as 150,000 people are expected to flee from the central and southern Iraq into the north and border regions of Iraq. But these already vulnerable people will walk through heavily landmined areas and could fall prey to these weapons. The UN estimates that 600,000 Iraqis are likely to become refugees during the conflict while 150,000 people will flee their homes and become internally displaced. Trócaire has allocated 80,000 Euros towards a programme which will ensure that internally displaced people are aware of the danger of landmines in the areas they are travelling through and the danger zones are clearly marked. The Mines Advisory Group (MAG), which will carry out the programme, has assigned 694 staff in northern Iraq to this vital protection task. MAG has worked in Iraq since 1992 and has identified over 2,000 mined areas. The agency has cleared over four million square metres of land and demarcated over 700 minefields. Trócaire has also allocated 25,000 Euros to Caritas Iraq to prepare villages and existing camps in three geographical areas in the north and border regions of Iraq for an influx of internally displaced people. This three-month programme will include meeting the medical and sanitation needs of the newly displaced. There is a danger that war in Iraq could unleash a humanitarian disaster. The United Nations has estimated that up to 11 million Iraqis may need immediate humanitarian aid. Experts believe that at least 10,000 people could die with as many as 500,000 people left injured or sick in the current conflict. Trócaire, which has worked in Iraq for the past 12 years, has already contributed 70,000 Euros for disaster preparedness measures to be put in place. These steps included the training of over 260 medical staff and volunteers in first aid in 32 health centres and health posts throughout Iraq, the provision of medical supplies to care for 10,000 war injured, the rehabilitation of Caritas Iraq medical facilities and the provision of six ambulances. Provision has been made to secure a supply of clean water through the provision of a water tanker and the digging of wells. Caritas Iraq is a long-standing partner of Trócaire and has substantial experience implementing a broad range of humanitarian and development programmes. The organisation operates out of 14 centres across Iraq. It has over 130 staff and more than 170 volunteers. It has professionals in the field of nutrition, engineering, water and sanitation. In addition to its work with Caritas Iraq, Trócaire is also playing a lead role in the response of Caritas Internationalis which is a network of more than 150 Catholic agencies. Staff from Trócaire will be part of the Emergency Response Support Team (ERST) which will support Caritas Iraq's emergency programme.
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