Iraq: Expanding conflict puts many more lives at serious risk

12-08-2014 Operational Updateby 14/02

As fighting spreads in central and north-western Iraq, it is taking a heavy toll on civilians. Thousands have been killed or injured. Since the beginning of the year, over a million people have been displaced. Most have been constantly on the move and now live in great hardship, some in unsafe places.

People fleeing violence in the town of Sinjar head for the Syrian border. ©Reuters / R. Said

Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has provided one-month food rations and other aid for over 200,000 people who have fled the fighting. Over 21,000 have twice received aid because their displacement has lasted so long. The distributions have taken place in the provinces of Anbar, Baghdad, Diyala, Karbala, Najaf, Babel, Al Qadissiya, Salah al-Din, Kirkuk, Dohuk, Sulamaniyah and Nineveh.

Relief for the displaced

Aid distribution for people who have fled to Najaf from the area around Mosul. 

Aid distribution for people who have fled to Najaf from the area around Mosul.
© AFP / H. Hamdani

The recent fighting in Sinjar and other areas close to Mosul, Dohuk and Kirkuk has resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. ICRC staff have started distributing food and other essential items to about 30,000 people in Hawija, Khaniq and Rania, in the provinces of Kirkuk, Dohuk and Sulamaniyah. In addition to the ongoing distributions, the ICRC expects to bring relief items to over 60,000 people in the coming weeks in Qartappa, Khaniq, Karbala, Najaf and Baghdad. Cash grants, which would enable displaced people to meet their needs at local markets, are also being considered.

"Thousands of Iraqis are caught up in the fighting. Some are trapped in the Sinjar mountains and in dire need, others have been displaced multiple times. And those who stayed behind lack essential services," said Patrick Youssef, who heads the ICRC delegation in Iraq. "As a neutral, impartial humanitarian organization, the ICRC is coordinating its actions with all concerned and redoubling its efforts to respond to the needs of people suffering the effects of the fighting. Local humanitarian organizations, such as the Iraqi Red Crescent, and international humanitarian organizations are also responding to the current situation. The needs are so immense, however, that more must be done to ease the suffering."

A child at a tapstand for displaced persons in Khanaqeen 

A child at a tapstand for displaced persons in Khanaqeen
/ CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / S. Dabbakeh

Emergency supplies for hospitals

People injured in recent fighting in Sinjar, Zummar and Talkeif have in many cases reached hospitals in other areas which had to face the influx with limited capacity. Over the past few weeks, the ICRC has delivered enough emergency medical supplies to health-care facilities in Dohuk, Zakho, Erbil, Makhmoor, Gweir, Saresh and Khanaqin to treat 250 critically injured and over 1,000 other patients. Within the past month, the ICRC has also delivered four tonnes of badly needed medical supplies to Al-Jumhuri Hospital in Mosul, enough to treat thousands of patients for three months, including as many as 100 who are critically injured.

"In recent months, to address the needs of growing numbers of people who have been injured and to support hospitals in conflict-affected areas, the ICRC has also delivered supplies in coordination with Iraq's health ministry to Sinjar, Al-Hamdaniyah, Fallujah, Tooz and Khanaqin," said Mr Youssef. "Enough supplies have been provided to treat over 100,000 people."

Physical Rehabilitation Centre, Erbil, Iraq. An ICRC instructor explains how to correctly measure the range of motion in a joint. 

Physical Rehabilitation Centre, Erbil, Iraq. An ICRC instructor explains how to correctly measure the range of motion in a joint.
© ICRC / CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / P. Krzysiek

The ICRC is reminding all parties involved in the hostilities of their obligation under international humanitarian law to spare civilians and civilian objects, and to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people who need it. Everyone who is wounded or sick must be granted prompt and safe access to health care. Medical facilities must be protected and respected, and every effort must be made to ensure that medical personnel can carry out their activities unhindered.

Elsewhere in the country, since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has:

  • conducted 92 visits to 55 places of detention holding over 28,780 detainees;
  • provided over 10,730 detainees with basic items such as clothes, hygiene products, blankets and other necessities;
  • renovated and upgraded the water supply system in Basra Central Prison serving 300 inmates;
  • arranged for the exchange of 1,397 messages between detainees and their families, and made 1,623 phone calls sending greetings from detainees to their families;
  • improved access to safe water for over 507,300 people, including 82,500 displaced people, by building or renovating water supply systems, carrying out emergency repairs, installing water tanks and delivering water by truck;
ICRC delegates speak to detainees in Sulamaniyah Prison 

ICRC delegates speak to detainees in Sulamaniyah Prison
/ CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC/ P. Krzysiek

  • organized three training sessions for 45 technicians working in water treatment plants in southern Iraq with the aim of improving the maintenance of water systems upgraded by the ICRC;
  • provided on-site training in maternal and child care and in emergency care at 13 State-run primary health-care centres serving 400,000 people;
  • restored to working order a primary health-care centre in Ramadi which had been damaged by the fighting;
  • provided physical rehabilitation services for nearly 17,800 patients, including over 300 Syrian refugees;
  • upgraded irrigation canals serving 24,700 people and organized cash-for-work activities for over 300 people in violence-stricken areas;
  • made financial grants to over 190 needy households headed by women, to enable them to set up small businesses;
  • helped 646 of the neediest households headed by women prepare the paperwork required to request social-welfare benefits;
  • facilitated three joint Iraqi-Iranian excavation missions in southern Iraq, where the remains of a total of 338 people were recovered; the remains of 210 Iranians and 19 Iraqis were subsequently repatriated or transferred following three handover ceremonies;
  • provided the Iraqi Red Crescent Society with financial assistance and equipment to set up an emergency operation room, their vehicular fleet is being augmented to support the society's humanitarian activities throughout the country;
  • promoted respect for international humanitarian law and the ICRC's mandate by holding information sessions attended by over 3,500 people, including the authorities, members of the armed and security forces, communities, and tribal and religious leaders.

For further information, please contact:
Saleh Dabbakeh, ICRC Baghdad, tel: +964 790 191 6927
Sitara Jabeen, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 78 or +41 79 536 92 31