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U.S. provides emergency airlift of winter supplies to northern Iraq

While the U.N. has expressed appreciation for America's emergency airlift to transport much needed winter aid to those displaced by the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, the U.N. refugee agency faces a staggering funding shortfall that will leave nearly a million displaced exposed to dropping temperatures across Iraq.

By
JC Finley
Iraqi refugees, like these girls in the outskirts of Erbil, Iraq, must contend with dropping temperatures as winter nears. The U.N. has warned that a funding shortfall of $58.45 million could leave up to 1 million displaced Iraqis and Syrians out in the cold this winter. (UPI/Ceerwan Aziz)
Iraqi refugees, like these girls in the outskirts of Erbil, Iraq, must contend with dropping temperatures as winter nears. The U.N. has warned that a funding shortfall of $58.45 million could leave up to 1 million displaced Iraqis and Syrians out in the cold this winter. (UPI/Ceerwan Aziz) | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. is providing emergency airlifts to transport winter aid packages to 150,000 people displaced in northern Iraq.

"The first of seven planned flights from Pakistan touched down at Erbil International airport today, carrying 3,600 tent insulation kits," the U.N.'s refugee agency reported Friday. Six more flights are scheduled to arrive before Dec. 12.

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While the emergency airlift support is welcome news to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the agency has warned that a funding shortfall of $58.45 million could leave up to 1 million displaced by the conflicts in Iraq and Syria out in the cold this winter.

About 990,000 people will be affected by the lack of funding this winter, UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said last week.

The U.N. has received less than half of the more than $110 million needed to provide the necessary winter aid, which includes plastic sheeting, cooking kits, warm clothing, refugee camp drainage systems, water proofing, stoves and kerosene.

"Time is growing short," warns UNHCR Regional Director Amin Awad. "With temperatures now dropping across Iraq, we must get this essential support to the most vulnerable Iraqi displaced immediately."

Awad expressed appreation for "Donors such as Saudi Arabic, the United States, which has helped to pay for the current airlift, Germany, Japan, and many others," but emphasized that "the needs vastly outstrip current resources."

Given the funding shortage, "All of us in the humanitarian community remain deeply concerned that we will not be able to fully support all those in need this winter," Awad added.

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