(Vatican Radio) Clashes between Iraqi troops and Sunni militants west of Baghdad on Thursday killed at least four children. It happened as the United Nations announced its highest level of emergency for Iraq’s humanitarian crisis in the wake of the onslaught by the extremist Islamic State group. Since their blitz offensive in June, the al-Qaida-breakaway group has overrun much of Iraq's north and west and driven out hundreds of thousands from their homes.
The push has displaced members of the minority Christian and Yazidi religious communities and threatened Iraqi Kurds in the Kurdish autonomous region in the north.
Catholic Relief Services is a member of the Caritas Internationalis Network aiding those who have been forced to flee.
Kris Ozar is CRS’s Iraqi Emergency Response Coordinator. He spoke to us from Dohuk in Northern Iraq about their relief efforts.
Listen to Lydia O'Kane's interview with CRS's Kris Ozar.
“It’s quite horrific, Catholic Relief Services through our partners Caritas Iraq, in a local church are responding immediately to provide essential food and non food items to all internally displaced Iraqis that are in the Kurdish region, the Northern region of Iraq. Many of them are taking refuge in collective centres which are churches, schools, parking lots.
He goes on to say that those who arrive are frightened and have literally escaped with the “clothes on their back”.
As well as the Christian community who have fled to cities such as Erbil, tens of thousands of Yazidis have fled the Islamic State group and taken refuge in the remote desert Sinjar mountain range.
The U.S. and Iraqi military have dropped food and water supplies to the area.
A total of 1.5 million have been displaced by the fighting since the insurgents captured Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, in June and quickly swept over other parts of the country.
If you want to find out more about the work Caritas Internationalis is doing in Iraq go to their website at www.Caritas.org