Violence in Iraq’s Anbar Province has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, many of whom are suffering from severe wounds or burns and psychological distress and are now living in dire conditions and facing a lack of access to necessary medical care, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.
At least 380,000 people have fled their homes in Anbar. In the last month, more than 18,000 have sought refuge in Tikrit, the capital of neighboring Salah al-Din Province, where MSF is assisting them.
“People are arriving with very few belongings,” said Fabio Forgione, MSF head of mission in Iraq. “Most are staying in abandoned schools and mosques. The fact that they will probably be displaced for some time is likely to worsen their already harsh living conditions.”
Amid a very volatile security environment in Tikrit, MSF is providing displaced people with relief items and is assessing their medical needs.
Most of the people arriving in Tikrit are women and children, with many requiring medical attention for wounds, burns, and psychological distress caused by the fighting. Despite efforts by the local community to accommodate the newcomers, most displaced persons face very difficult living conditions, shortages of food and limited access to medical care.
The MSF team is working with local authorities and religious and community leaders to distribute blankets and hygiene kits to 15,000 displaced people in Tikrit, while determining how to respond to their medical needs in an extremely challenging security environment.
“Access to the area remains the main challenge to providing aid,” said Forgione. “The security situation is highly volatile, which has made it very difficult for us to organize the distribution of relief items. Ensuring the permanent presence of our teams has been a real challenge.”
Anbar Province has been hit by a surge in fighting since late 2013, particularly around the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. The violence is at its worst since 2008.
The recently displaced persons add to the more than 1.1 million displaced Iraqis unable to return to areas wracked by extreme violence from 2006 to 2008.
Since 2006, MSF has provided reconstructive surgical care in Amman, Jordan, to victims of violence from all over Iraq. Cases are referred through a network of Iraqi doctors. More than 2,000 Iraqi patients have received surgical care through this program, including nearly 300 patients from Anbar Province.
Despite ongoing conflict in Iraq, which has made it very difficult for humanitarian organizations to work in the country, MSF is striving to provide medical care to the Iraqi people. MSF has worked continuously in Iraq since 2006. In order to ensure its independence, MSF does not accept funding from any government, religious committee or international agency for its programs in Iraq. It relies solely on private donations from the general public to carry out its work.