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UN appeals for $861 million to help Iraq

The United Nations has launched an appeal for $861 million in international humanitarian aid for Iraq. The country is struggling to cover humanitarian costs amid falling oil prices and the fight against "Islamic State."

Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said Sunday that $861 million (795 million euros) in aid was needed to reach Iraq's "most vulnerable," some 7.3 million people.

"Our top priority is to get to the people who are in the most trouble and to give them what they need in order to survive - food, cash, shelter, water," Grande told reporters at a press conference in Baghdad.

Over the past two years, some 3.3 million Iraqis have been

displaced by the "Islamic State"

(IS), while 250,000 Syrians have fled to Iraq to escape the conflict in their own war-torn country.

The already huge number of displaced Iraqis is expected to increase further in 2016 as Iraqi forces fight to retake areas from jihadist militants in the Anbar and Nineveh provinces.

Iraq's revenues have also been hit by the recent plunge in oil prices, which has left Baghdad unable to cover the costs of addressing the humanitarian crisis.

Displaced Iraqis expected to increase

Depending on the intensity of fighting and the scale of violence in the months ahead, the UN expects that between 11 and 13 million Iraqis may need some form of humanitarian assistance by the end of this year. More than 500,000 people are expected to flee their homes during 2016.

"Perhaps an additional 1 million will be impacted by the battle for Mosul," said the UN's humanitarian response plan for 2016, referring to Iraq's second city which has become the main hub for IS in the country.

Jassim Mohammed al-Jaff, Yemen's minister of migration and displacement, said in a statement on Sunday that the "allocation through the federal budget will not be sufficient."

"We expect that the highly prioritized [UN] Humanitarian Response Plan will help cover part of the gap," al-Jaff added.

ksb/cmk (Reuters, AFP)

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