Homeless in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- American officials report that the number of sectarian and other killings in Iraq has declined since the onset of the military “surge.” But, while the number of killings may, indeed, have fallen, does that mean Iraq is really safer?

Insecurity in Iraq is most strikingly illustrated by the number of people fleeing their homes. The United Nations estimates that, since July, the number has risen by 60,000 every month. The best estimate is that around 16% of Iraq’s population, or one in six Iraqis, no longer live in their homes.

Roughly half of those who have fled have also left the country, implying two million refugees. This leaves another two million who have been displaced internally, and who represent an emerging humanitarian tragedy.

There have been international reports and fundraising campaigns to support Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan, but the internally displaced have received less attention, despite their greater vulnerability, owing to their proximity to the conflict and the poor standard of basic services in Iraq. They tend to be less visible, and it is more difficult for donors and agencies to assist them.