A Sudden Crisis

by Dish Staff

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As the UN refugee agency launches its largest aid effort in more than a decade to help the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in northern Iraq, Swati Sharma remarks on how rapidly the humanitarian disaster has unfolded:

The rate at which the situation in Iraq has deteriorated is the largest reason why it is being called one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent years. Let’s compare it with Syria.

While the climate there is extremely volatile, it has been deteriorating for more than three years. In comparison, conflicts in Iraq mostly started this year, and the worst of it commenced in June, when the Islamic State (then ISIS) took Mosul. Today, the number of displaced Iraqis is at 1.5 million — small in comparison to Syria’s 6.5 million — but almost 600,000 of them fled their homes in the past two months. Still, many were able to find homes and shelters in communities around northern Iraq.

In early August, Islamic State moved farther north. When the militant group took the northern region in and around the town of Sinjar, where many Yazidis live, more than 200,000 had to flee. Many were stranded on Mount Sinjar with dwindling resources, causing the Obama administration to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State.