Iraq: ICRC responds to needs caused by unrest following events in Hawija

01-05-2013 Operational Update

Following clashes in Hawija on 23 April, violence spread into other parts of Iraq. Despite chaos, lack of security and difficult access, the ICRC has been able to reach the hardest-hit areas to assess the situation and respond to needs.

A high yet unconfirmed number of casualties sustained in clashes in Hawija on 23 April has increased tensions between tribes and the Iraqi Army, and violence has spilled over into other disputed territories in northern Iraq. In the past week, clashes have erupted in the areas of Qara Tapa, Jalawla, Suleiman Beg and Tuz Khormato, and in the city of Mosul.

"What is of concern to us is that after days of clashes that followed protests in certain areas, we are receiving information about a high number of casualties," said Pierre Reichel, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Kirkuk. "For us, the main priority is to see to it that the wounded receive appropriate health care without delay."

Kirkuk governorate and other parts of Iraq’s disputed territories, caught between tribal complexities, armed groups opposed to the government, territorial quarrels and broader regional tensions, have been at the heart of the strains that still mark Iraq after years of conflict. "Today, the situation remains very volatile and we are worried that tensions could escalate further and lead to more casualties," said Mr Reichel.

On 25 April, ICRC staff managed to reach the town of Hawija to assess the situation and deliver medical assistance to the local health-care facility. "In many villages along the road we saw funerals taking place and at the hospital, some of the wounded were still receiving treatment," said Anis Gandeel, the ICRC delegate who led the mission.

Because the ICRC has offices in Kirkuk, Khanaqin and Mosul, it was able to react quickly to recent events. Thanks to the sub-delegation's network of contacts, it was able to assess the need for humanitarian aid and obtain security guarantees for ICRC staff travelling into the stricken areas.

Since 23 April, the ICRC has:

  • worked closely with the authorities to monitor victims’ access to medical services and identify the facilities where needs are most acute;
  • delivered wound-dressing materials to the hospital in Hawija, where many wounded patients have been taken, and to the hospital in Kifri, which has seen an influx of people injured in clashes farther east;
  • worked closely with the families and the authorities to look for people missing in connection with the recent events in order to determine what happened to them.

The ICRC will strive to expand its access to other areas in order to determine what is required most urgently, especially in terms of medical care for the wounded. The ICRC will also maintain its dialogue with the communities and authorities in an effort to clarify what has happened to people missing or detained and inform their families.

The ICRC has been working in Kirkuk since 2009, addressing the needs of the people most affected by the consequences of war and the ongoing violence in the disputed territories. It now has 11 international and 63 Iraqi staff based there. The ICRC has been helping the local population improve their access to drinking water and upgrade health-care facilities, and it has launched micro-economic initiatives for widows and people with disabilities. In addition, it visits detainees.

For further information, please contact:
Olivier Moeckli, ICRC Baghdad, tel: +964 780 913 16 26
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 447 37 26 or +41 22 730 37 23