Many families who fled Hawiga have endured perilous journeys to reach safety, walking for several days and crossing areas littered with improvised explosive devices. Several people have been killed or injured due to IEDs or sniper fire.
Around half of those displaced from Hawiga and surrounding areas – some 30,000 people – are sheltered in UNHCR-built camps in Kirkuk Governorate. Last month, the agency opened a new camp, Laylan 2, with a capacity to host some 5,500 displaced persons to accommodate the new arrivals, as three other displacement camps, Daquq, Laylan and Nazrawa, had filled up. However, Laylan 2 is now almost full, with 4,152 displaced persons. The Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement and the Kirkuk authorities are currently building another new camp, Laylan 3, which could shelter 30,000 people.
UNHCR and partners have provided tents and kitchen sets, as well as heaters, kerosene, blankets, mattresses and plastic sheets to help families during the winter months as temperatures plummet.
Other large numbers of Hawiga-displaced are staying in neighbouring Salah al-Din Governorate, the majority in urban areas, including unfinished buildings and informal settlements. UNHCR’s Al Alam camp is hosting nearly 3,000 people. While other groups are sheltered in different governorates, including more than 1,400 people staying in UNHCR’s Debaga 2 and Debaga Stadium sites in Erbil Governorate. All families have been provided with a tent and emergency relief items, including mattresses, blankets and kitchen items.
“While the eyes of the world have been focussed on events in Mosul, it is important to remember that tens of thousands of people in Hawiga and surrounding areas have also been seriously affected by conflict and a dramatically worsening humanitarian situation”, said Bruno Geddo, UNHCR’s Representative in Iraq, who visited Al Alam camp this week. “People I talked to from Hawiga described desperate scenes of life there, the enormous difficulties they faced if they stayed and the terrible risks they would have to take in order to flee.
“They also told me food prices had soared. For example, rice prices had increased ten-fold or more, putting basic items beyond the reach of most families. Water and medical supplies are also running out.”
UNHCR remains extremely concerned about the safety of civilians in Hawiga and urges all parties in the conflict to ensure civilians are not prevented from leaving and are allowed to access safe areas. UNHCR will continue to provide them with shelter and life-saving assistance when they reach our camps.
Before 2014, when Hawiga came under the control of armed groups, the district had an estimated population of around 288,000, including 117 000 in Hawiga town and peri-urban areas. Large numbers of people continue to flee Hawiga, seeking safety in surrounding areas, ahead of an expected military offensive to regain control of the district by government forces.
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