GENEVA - The UN refugee agency said Tuesday it was poised to mount a massive aid operation for 500,000 Iraqis driven from their homes by jihadist rebels.
"In response to the deteriorating situation in northern Iraq, UNHCR is this week launching one of its largest aid pushes aimed at helping close to half a million people who have been forced to leave their homes," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters.
The jihadists, who have declared a "caliphate" in a region straddling the Iraq-Syria border, have after two months of violence brought Iraq to the brink of breakup.
To date, the United Nations estimates that 1.2 million Iraqis have been displaced by fighting this year, Edwards said ahead of the extraordinary aid push set to begin Wednesday.
"Barring last-minute delays, an air, road and sea operation will begin tomorrow, starting with a four-day airlift using Boeing 747s from Aqaba in Jordan to Arbil, followed by road convoys from Turkey and Jordan, and sea and land shipments from Dubai via Iran over the next 10 days," he said.
Among the initial supplies are 3,000 tents, 200,000 plastic sheets, 18,500 kitchen sets and 16,500 jerry cans.
Edwards said that a key goal was to help those who lack shelter or housing.