UN warns lack of aid may drive Iraqis to extremist group
United Nations Security Council- Photo courtesy of UN Photo
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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. envoy for Iraq warned Wednesday that a lack of funds for desperately needed humanitarian aid has already cut food rations and may be forcing Iraqi communities and families to look to the Islamic State extremist group for life-saving assistance.

Jan Kubis told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that the United Nations is “very worried” at reports that desperate Iraqis are turning for help to the militant Islamic group, which still controls about a third of the country a year after its fighters captured Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul.

He said an offensive by the Iraqi army, backed by Shiite and Sunni militia fighters and an air campaign by a U.S.-led coalition, has “yet to significantly change the situation on the ground.” While Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit was liberated in March, the provincial capital of Ramadi fell to the extremists in May, he noted.

“The human cost of the conflict remains far too high,” Kubis stressed.

According to a U.N. report last week, the Iraq conflict has taken a terrible toll on civilians with nearly 15,000 killed and 30,000 wounded during a 16-month period ending on April 30.

Kubis said at least 8.2 million people – roughly one in four Iraqis – need urgent assistance, and half need food. More than three million Iraqis have fled their homes and U.N. partners estimate that nearly a million more are likely to be displaced by continuing violence in the coming months, he said.

In addition, close to 300,000 refugees have sought safety in Iraq, most fleeing across the border from Syria where the Islamic State group also controls a large swath of the country, he said.

Kubis said close to 80 health facilities and scores of life-saving programs are scheduled to shut down unless additional funds are received.

The U.N. humanitarian office said Wednesday that only 8 percent of its appeal in June for $497 million to cover the costs of shelter, food, water and other aid over the next six months has been funded.

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