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The United States’ focus on the needs of the Iraqi people continues even as U.S. combat forces begin withdrawing from Iraq's cities.
President Barack Obama has committed the U.S. to helping the millions of displaced Iraqis, stating that "America has a strategic interest – and a moral responsibility – to act." The U.S. has contributed more than one-hundred-fifty million dollars this year to aid refugees and internally displaced persons in the region.
The United States' contributions support many programs in and around Iraq that are sponsored by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR. Todd Pierce of the Office of Population, Refugees and Migration at the U.S. Department of State, describes how the U.S. doesn't "just write a check," but is actively engaged with UNHCR on addressing Iraq's displacement challenges:
"What we do is we work closely with them on areas that we're concerned about. Iraqi refugees is an area where we've been working very closely with UNHCR for the last couple of years to make sure that the ... services that they get are the ones that they need."
Andrew Harper is Head of the Iraq Support Unit for UNHCR, he says those needs are diverse and span a large geographic area:
"The U.S. has been, UNHCR’s probably strongest partner in this operation. We have a total budget for this year of three-hundred million dollars, to cover activities not only inside Iraq, but also in Syria, in Jordan, in Lebanon, in Iran, in the Gulf States, and wherever there are, basically, Iraqis we have to provide assistance to. So, we are using those funds to provide basic health, as I say in Syria, education, food, cash assistance, staffing as well. ... We also have women's refuges, we’ve also got resettlement programs, which the U.S. has been very much engaged in. The money's being used quite comprehensively throughout the region."
Going forward, Mr. Harper says continued donor support will ensure that people can return with safety and dignity when the conditions are in place inside Iraq. In the meantime, however, he stresses that funding to help the displaced remains vital.
The United States will continue to help the citizens of Iraq and calls on other donors to respond to the United Nations Consolidated Appeal for Iraq and Region, thereby supporting the UNHCR and numerous other organizations at work in the Middle East.