The violence against children, women and minority communities in Iraq in the past few weeks is one of the worst seen in this century, a UN spokesperson said on Thursday, citing information from the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef).
Testimonies gathered from civilians who fled the recent violence in Sinjar in north Iraq "have revealed appalling accounts of killing, abduction and sexual violence perpetrated against women and children," Xinhua quoted UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric as saying at a press briefing.
"The agency has also documented 123 separate cases of rights violations carried out by armed groups against Yazidi and other minority groups in Ninewa, close to the border with Syria," he said.
Unicef has provided psycho-social care and support to more than 3,000 distressed children now sheltered in Dahuk in Iraq's Kurdistan region.
An estimated 1.2 million Iraqis have been displaced so far in 2014, including some 600,000 people uprooted by the Anbar province crisis which began in January, and 600,000 displaced from conflicts in and around Mosul, the largest city in north Iraq, and more recently Sinjar, since August.
Amidst an expanding displacement crisis in Iraq, several UN humanitarian organisations are scaling up efforts to get food and water to people fleeing attacks by the Islamic State (IS).
Earlier this week, Dujarric told reporters here that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) was increasing its operations on the ground to aid the massive influx of people arriving in the Dahuk governorate in the Kurdistan region.
According to the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR), Dahuk is hosting some 400,000 displaced Iraqis, including Yazidis, Christians, Shabak, Kakai, Armenian and Turkmen minorities — some of whom have endured repeated displacement. The agency is coordinating with the Kurdistan government to provide shelter in camps for a minimum of 60,000 people.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and its local partners have doubled the number of field kitchens they now operate across Dahuk. So far, WPF has provided 2.5 million meals.