Iraq, 2 September 2014 – With the siege on the northern Iraqi town of Amerli finally broken, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed his appreciation to the Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and others, who, with air support from the United States, helped avert a humanitarian disaster in the town, which had been blockaded by militants for the past two months.“The Secretary-General welcomes the lifting of the siege on the town of Amerli in Iraq,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson, adding that, “this has averted a major humanitarian as well as human rights disaster.”
The United Nations in Iraq sounded the alarm about the situation some 10 days ago, warning that the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had surrounded the town, leaving its citizens stranded without food or access to water supplies.
In today’s statement, the UN chief expressed appreciation to the Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and others, who, with air support from the US, participated in lifting the siege, as well as to those countries providing assistance to the affected population through air drops.
“The Secretary-General also welcomes the action of the UN Humanitarian Country Team who, in coordination with the local and national authorities, succeeded in distributing the first of a planned series of life-saving supply convoys to the children and families of Amerli,” the statement said.
Providing details on the ramped-up humanitarian response, Christophe Boulierac, spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told a press briefing in Geneva that the agency delivered 45 metric tonnes of life-saving supplies today for the estimated 3,000 children, women and their families who had been trapped in dire conditions.
The UNICEF supply convoy consisted of seven trucks dispatched from Erbil directly to Amerli without transfer to unmarked vehicles, and included the Mayor of Amerli as a passenger, noted Mr. Boulierac.
“The delivery is the first in a series of planned aid convoys and is now supporting 15,000 people with family food packs, oral rehydration kits for health clinics, emergency food rations, therapeutic food for malnourished children, family hygiene kits and more than a thousand bottles of water,” he said, describing UNICEF’s mass humanitarian, supply-driven operation of relief and assistance.
Since January, UNICEF has delivered lifesaving assistance to 641,243 people displaced throughout Iraq, and since 2 August, it has delivered nearly 360 metric tonnes of humanitarian aid for more than 314,000 displaced people, including safe drinking water, supplementary food and emergency health kits, among other items.
In addition, Fadéla Chaib, spokesperson for the UN World Health Organization (WHO), said that the agency has been requested to provide medicines and surgical supplies to Amerli in response to the health needs of the population under siege.
The health situation in the town had been reported to be difficult, including problems with getting obstetric equipment to assist pregnant women. The town has one main public health centre with one physician, one assistant pharmacist, and 64 paramedics. WHO and the non-governmental agency United Iraq Medical Society plan to set up a mobile clinic in Anbar Governorate with an ambulance, she added.
On the wider UN response in Iraq, both spokespersons reported that despite the ongoing conflict, violence and displacement across the country, the UN’s mass polio immunization campaign has thus far succeeded in reaching 3.75 million of four million children under the age of five in 12 Iraqi Governorates.