Relief Agencies Offer 'Only Hope' for Iraqi Refugees

International relief agencies present "the only hope" for the Iraqi refugees who lack proper shelter, water and food, said the president of one of the largest Christian relief and development organizations in the world.

"We have great concern for the Iraqi refugees that are in Jordan. We're working there. We're concerned about the refugees in Syria. These are forgotten people," World Vision International President Dean Hirsch told Agence France-Presse in an interview last week.

About four million of Iraq's 26 million people have fled the country, according to the United Nations, including those who left before the 2003 U.S.-led offensive and warfare that followed.

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An estimated 1.4 million of those went to Syria and 750,000 to Jordan.

"The U.S. Government does not want to recognize them, the European Union wants to keep quiet on it," and the refugees are also a sensitive matter for the Jordanians, Hirsch told AFP during a meeting of World Vision's top governing body in Singapore.

"It's a very tragic story ... and it is wrong," he added.

Established in 1950 to care for orphans in Asia, World Vision has grown to embrace the larger issues of community development and advocacy for the poor in its mission to help children and their families build sustainable futures. The organization still focuses on children, however, because it says "they are the best indicator of a community's social health."

"When children are fed, sheltered, schooled, protected, valued, and loved a community thrives," it states.

Regarding Iraqi children, World Vision says they are "among the most distressed refugee populations worldwide."

"Without legal status, psychological rehabilitation, proper education and medical assistance, this devastated and scattered generation is trapped with little hope for the future unless meaningful assistance is provided by the international community," the organization stated in its report on Iraqi refugee children.

In response to the situation, World Vision has been caring for thousands of Iraqi refugees at a camp in Jordan.

"We are also talking to religious leaders in Syria as to how the different faith-based organizations there can respond," Hirsch added.

On the same day World Vision's president spoke to AFP, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population and Refugees and Migration, Ellen Sauerbrey, announced that the United States would be contributing $30 million to provide educational opportunities for Iraqi children in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.

"It gives me great pleasure to be able to announce today (Tuesday) that the United States is contributing $30 million to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) Joint Appeal to provide Educational Opportunities for Iraqi Children in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt," she said at a press conference in the Jordanian capital Amman, according to the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).

"The United States believes the response to the needs of displaced Iraqis is best addressed through a multilateral effort, coordinated by organizations capable of operating in all affected countries and attracting resources from a broad range of potential donors," Sauerbrey added.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi refugee children in Jordan started the school year on Aug. 19 for the first time since they fled their homeland.

The UNHCR estimates that several hundred thousand school-age Iraqi children are among about two million Iraqi refugees now living in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.

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Christian Post correspondent Anne Thomas contributed to this report.

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