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Aid agency roundup: Conditions desperate in Iraq as hospitals shelled

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 04:31 GMT
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Smoke rises from a Shiite mosque after it was destroyed in a bomb attack by militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the city of Mosul, on July 23, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer
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NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Civilians are bearing the brunt of Iraq’s bloody conflict with some 1.2 million people internally displaced since the beginning of the year, according to aid agencies.

Last month, Sunni militants from the al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State (previously known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) launched an offensive that has displaced half a million people, and that number keeps growing, aid agencies say.

Most of those driven from their homes by fighting have fled to the autonomous northern Kurdistan region, but many from the majority Shi'ite population have moved to Baghdad and Iraq's mainly Shi'ite southern provinces, Reuters reported.

Access and security remain of great concern for humanitarian workers in the country.

Here is a summary of the humanitarian response as of July. If your agency is involved in emergency efforts, please email us at news.foundation@thomsonreuters.com.

MÉDECINS SANS FRONTIÈRES

“We are receiving accounts from medical staff that more and more hospitals have been hit by bombs in recent weeks,” Fabio Forgione, MSF head of mission in Iraq, said in a statement on Thursday.

“Medical staff have fled, fearing attacks on the health facilities where they are working. We are extremely concerned that significant numbers of people are now deprived of the medical assistance they need.”

The medical charity said several hospitals in northern and central Iraq were hit by shelling and aerial assaults. It urged all parties involved in the conflict to respect health facilities and allow medical staff to do their work.

A hospital in the town of Shirqat was bombed repeatedly this week, and has now been completely evacuated. “Working conditions are desperate and many items are in short supply, from antibiotics to anaesthetics,” an Iraqi surgeon told MSF.

An MSF clinic in Tikrit that catered to some 40,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) was shelled last month, as were two other hospitals in town.

“Hospitals are empty. People now have to drive through war-torn areas to reach the closest hospitals more than 200 km away in Erbil and Kirkuk,” the surgeon said.

OCHA

In its latest situation report, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said thousands of internally displaced Iraqis were fleeing to southern regions in search of safety.

OCHA said that access remained a challenge for aid workers and that difficulties distributing aid was threatening food security. It also received reports of acute water shortages in parts of the north, which was impacting both IDPs and their host communities.

Some 60,000 IDPs are in need of shelter and non-food items, the report said.

MALTESER INTERNATIONAL

Malteser is providing free medical care to about 35 people every day in a makeshift health facility in the town of Karamless, in northern Iraq, a region controlled by the Islamic State.

Christians fleeing violence and persecution in and around the city of Mosul were seeking shelter in Karamless, which is home to a small Christian community.

ASSESSMENT CAPACITIES PROJECT

In its July 24 report, ACAPS said intense fighting was taking place in Ninewa, near Mosul and Kirkuk, and the largest number of IDPs was being registered in Anbar, Dohuk, Ninewa and Erbil in the north.

ACAPS listed the following as humanitarian priorities: the evacuation of civilians from conflict areas, the provision of water in areas facing critical shortages like Anbar, and health services in areas where hospitals and clinics were damaged by fighting.

INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE

The IRC said three camps were set up by the Kurdistan regional government to accommodate families that had fled from violence. It said the displaced population in Iraq remained “highly mobile”, with many living in hotels or in public spaces like mosques and even soccer fields.

In the autonomous region of Kurdistan, IDPs were cohabiting with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, further stretching local resources.

(Editing by Alisa Tang: alisa.tang@thomsonreuters.com)

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