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Almost 60,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI) since August 15 and the re-opening of the border with Syria. In order to provide the humanitarian assistance and manage the increasing number of new Syrian arrivals in the Kurdish region, the KRG and UNHCR officially decided to open a number of new refugee camps.
The number of Syrian refugees in KRI Iraq has reached the 200,000 figure and UNHCR expects that the number may exceed 500,000 by the end of the year. Aid agencies and local authorities will soon be overwhelmed and resources stretched without additional funding and support. Additional camps, designed to host imminent large refugee populations, are therefore currently under development and are due to be opened in the last quarter of 2013.
Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has scaled-up the intervention to support emergency needs of Syrian refugees. DRC has reinforced the team in Erbil and will soon open an office in Dohuk. DRC has already started implementing two projects. One DRC has developed, with the support of UNICEF, is a rapid response to intervene in Qushtapa, one of the newly-established camps in Erbil Governorate.
“The project addresses the basic water supply, sanitation, drainage and hygiene needs of 10,000 vulnerable Syrian refugees. It will meet the standards of living conditions of the refugees and seek to sustain the health situation of the refugees and environment inside the camp. The second project aims at providing durable and sustainable livelihoods assistance for the refugees both in Erbil and Dohuk Governorates,” says Ben Nixon, DRC Head of Programme.
In addition to immediate emergency response to the new influx, there is a crucial need to increase efforts to support urban refugees and host communities impacted by the Syrian crisis. 40% are living in urban settings with minimal or no access to services and support according to the latest UNHCR figures.
“One of the main challenges is to mitigate potential community tensions over resource allocations and work to ensure that host communities continue to be able to receive refugees positively. Assistance will also be need to support the most vulnerable groups such as female headed households, elderly unsupported families, families with many children and disabled members,” says Michael Bates, DRC Country Director.
In addition, DRC is in the inception phase of a project generously funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), which will provide emergency cash assistance and protection outreach to refugees residing in host communities. DRC is also in the inception phase of projects funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and the Franz Hoffman Foundation, which will address the needs of refugees in the upcoming winter. Winter conditions can be harsh in the Kurdish Region of Iraq putting at risk particularly Syrian refugees in the camps. DRC will therefore distribute NFI kits (clothes, gloves, socks, hats, scarves, blankets, torches) to 5,000 Syrian refugees in the camps to help them manage the winter climate.