UN Ramps Up Major Aid Operation for Iraq

The United Nations said Tuesday it is launching a major aid response in Iraq, sending in material via air, land and sea to help tens of thousands of refugees fleeing extremist violence in northern Iraq.

According to the UN, Iraq's humanitarian challenges are "immense."

The organization plans to deliver thousands of tents, plastic sheets, cooking sets and containers for water and fuel to the thousands who have taken refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. Many of them are camping out in schools, mosques, churches and other buildings.

An estimated 1.2 million Iraqis have been displaced so far this year since Islamic State militants charged into Anbar province in the west, then moved into Mosul and Sinjar in the north.

The UN says the operation will start with a four-day airlift from neighboring Jordan into the northern Iraqi city of Irbil. Trucks carrying aid will then come in from Turkey and Jordan, and additional material will come in from Dubai via Iran over the next ten days.

The United States, Britain, Germany and France are taking part in the humanitarian effort.

The World Food Program says that it has set up field kitchens to help feed some 100,000 of those displaced by the militant violence, both Muslims and Christians.

On its website, WFP noted that Saudi Arabia has been a strong supporter of its emergency operation in Iraq.

Although Saudi Arabia is mainly Sunni Muslims, the kingdom's top religious authority on Tuesday condemned the extremism of the Sunni-based Islamic State group.

Islamic State fighters have rampaged through large tracts of land in Syria and Iraq, brutally killing those standing against them, as well as religious and ethnic minorities living in the area.

VOA News / Aug. 20, 2014 08:20 KST