ERBIL: The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) has begun an air, road and sea operation to deliver aid to 500,000 displaced people in Iraq's Kurdistan region.
The relief program began this week with chartered B747 freighter flights from Aqaba, Jordan to Erbil, Iraq followed by road convoys from Turkey and Jordan, and sea and land shipments from Dubai via Iran over the next 10 days.
The initial aid shipments include 3,300 tents, 20,000 plastic sheets, 18,500 kitchen sets and 16,500 jerry cans as part of a program to ship 2,410 tons of aid.
Some 200,000 people have fled to Iraqi Kurdistan since early August when Sinjar and the area around it were seized by terrorists from the self-styled Islamic State.
"At this stage we envisage there being 12-14 sites in all with capacity for 140,000 people," said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards. The agency says the sites are likely to be boosted by additional camps set up by the International Humanitarian Partnership of Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the U.K.
"The number of displaced people flowing [from Syria] into Duhok [province] across the Peshkabour border has slowed in the past week from thousands per day to a few hundred," added Edwards. Inside Syria, UNHCR continues to help Yezidi people fleeing the Sinjar area.
To date the agency says it has provided shelter and aid to more than 210,000 people. So far an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis have been displaced this year, including 600,000 people from Anbar province in January and a further 600,000 as a result of Islamic State terrorist action in and around Mosul and Sinjar.
As the aid program continues, outgoing U.N. high commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has castigated members of the U.N. Security Council for not taking responsibility for the unfolding human tragedy in Syria and Iraq.
"I firmly believe that greater responsiveness by this Council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives," adding that the use of a veto by some members was short-sighted in a century where growing challenges face humanity as a whole. "Collective interest – clearly defined by the UN Charter – is the national interest of every state," she declared.
Noting short-term geopolitical considerations and narrow national interest had repeatedly taken precedence over "intolerable" human suffering, Pillay said inaction by the international community had allowed "massive bloodshed and devastation of infrastructure with acutely destabilizing transnational phenomena, including terrorism, the proliferation of prohibited weaponry, organized crime, and spoliation of natural resources."
Pillay added that the current situation in Iraq and parts of Syria could have been avoided if members of the Council had listened to the warnings of monitors and experts: "The laws of the UN are most needed when conflict looms, and this Council has the mandate to address crises before they escalate into threats to international peace and security," she concluded.