UN warns 'complete halt' of humanitarian activities if access not reauthorized by Baghdad

A Syrian refugee sells goods at the Bardarash displacement camp in the Kurdistan Region on January 14, 2020. (NRT Digital Media/Winthrop Rodgers)

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SULAIMANI — The United Nations’ Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq Marta Ruedas has expressed her concern about the failure of the Iraqi government to grant letters of access to humanitarian actors, which could lead to a “complete halt” of humanitarian operations in the country if not resolved.

According to a statement issued by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Thursday (January 16), the authorizations that allowed humanitarian actors to perform work in Iraq expired in the first week of the year and no new ones have been issued.

“Aid deliveries throughout Iraq slowed considerably since November 2019, due to the discontinuation of previously agreed-upon access authorization procedures, and the absence of viable alternative mechanisms,” the statement added.

“Without predictable, continual access authorization, humanitarian aid is in danger of rotting in warehouses, putting lives in jeopardy and wasting badly-needed donor funds,” Ruedas said.

Director General of the Kurdistan Regional Government's Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC) Hoshang Mohammed told NRT Digital Media that access for humanitarian actors would continue in the Region.

The OCHA said that an estimated 2.4 million people in need have been affected by the restrictions and that more than 2,460 humanitarian missions have been canceled or prevented from reaching their destinations since early December 2019.

Winter is a particularly difficult time for the vulnerable communities served by UN agencies and humanitarian NGOs, with freezing temperatures requiring extra supplies of clothing, blankets, and heating fuel.

There are more than 1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in Iraq, according to the UN.

(NRT Digital Media)