Friday, May 9, 2008

Sadr City Update | First International NGO to Begin Working in Syria with Iraqi Refugees

Continued attacks in Sadr City threaten to create a new community of displaced. While the international community is beginning to try and address the humanitarian crisis for so many Iraqis who have fled the country, the 2.7 million internally displaced are incredibly vulnerable. Leila Fadel reports on the Iraqi Governments call for people to evacuate to two soccer fields and through testimonials, Shashank Bengali illustrates the humanitarian work of the Sadr movement. There is a history in the Middle East of political movements growing out of institutions that first start with addressing social services that a rueling government is unable or unwilling to address.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has signed the first contract with an International NGO to work with Iraqi Refugees in Syria. The group, International Medical Corps also has very large contracts for work in Iraq with Internally Displaced. It has been difficult for large international NGO’s to work in Syria.


Iraqi military orders Sadr City residents to evacuate
Leila Fadel McClatchy Newspapers (8 May 2008)

Iraqi security forces, after more than of 40 days of intense fighting, on Thursday told residents to evacuate their homes in the northeast Shiite slum of Sadr City and to move to temporary shelters on two soccer fields.

The military's call indicated the possibility of stepped-up military operations and came as Iraqi security forces raided a radio station run by backers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr. In the southern port city of Basra, militants launched rockets that struck a coalition base, killing two contractors and injuring four civilians and four coalition soldiers.

Sadr City has been a battleground since late March, enduring U.S. airstrikes, militia snipers and gunbattles between U.S. and Iraqi forces and the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Sadr.

Already some 8,500 people have been displaced from the sprawling slum of some 2.5 million people, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent. For weeks, food, water and medical shortages have affected about 150,000 people.

Charity work shows another side to Sadr's movement in Iraq
Shashank Bengali McClatchy Newspapers (8 May 2008)

When Ali Ateya was killed last month at the age of 23_ a victim of an American airstrike on a block of concrete tenements in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, according to his family — there was no money for his burial.

Within days, two officials from Sadr City's main humanitarian organization showed up at the family home. Unsolicited, they offered to pay for Ateya's Shiite Muslim burial service and provide food for three days of ritual mourning.

Then they handed the parents an envelope. It was stuffed with 500,000 Iraqi dinars — about $400 — and on it was printed: "A gift from Sayyid Muqtada al Sadr."

UNHCR signs landmark accord in Syria with international NGO
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Boudewijn van Eenennaam, head of the UN refugee agency's governing body, on Thursday attended the signing of a landmark contract between UNHCR and the International Medical Corps (IMC), paving the way for the aid agency to become the first international non-governmental organization (INGO) to work with Iraqi refugees in Syria. IMC will run three health clinics for refugees in Damascus under the agreement. The Danish Refugee Council and Premier Urgence are also slated to start work in Syria soon in support of UNHCR community services and education programmes.

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