In a series of articles, IRIN documents the levels of violence and consequent needs of the population in six different areas of the country. Scroll to the bottom for links to the other articles in the series.
More people have been killed in Baghdad province than in any of the other 17 provinces of Iraq since the US-led occupation of the country began in 2003. Sectarian violence, insurgency and general lawlessness has displaced hundreds of thousands of Baghdad residents and left few aid agencies on the ground to help.
“The people of Baghdad have been living in a constantly terrifying situation. Dozens of civilians are being killed daily and displacement has increased phenomenally since sectarian violence started in February of last year,” said Yehia Barakat, political analyst of Baghdad University in the capital, Baghdad.
Since the bombing of a Shi’ite mosque in the northern city of Samarra on 22 February 2006, the capital and its neighbouring cities - such as al-Mahmoudiyah, Salman Pak and Abou Ghraib - have witnessed a daily increase in sectarian violence, including kidnappings and bombings.
As seat of government and home to a mixture of ethnic groups, sects and religions, Baghdad is constantly under fire. This is where Sunni insurgents and Shi’ite militias are largely pitted against each other, with the central government unable to maintain peace or prevent the displacement of people according to their sectarian affiliations.
|We have moved more than 11 times from place to place, running away from the violence, but wherever we go, someone comes to threaten us and force us to leave again.|
While differing estimates exist on the number of people being killed in Baghdad on a daily, monthly and annual basis, all agree that the death toll is unacceptably high and is generally getting worse.
On 8 January, The Brookings Institute, a US-based independent research and policy institute, said that there had been just over 28,000 deaths in the Baghdad province since the US-led invasion in 2003, but Iraqi government sources said the number could be as high as 40,000.
This high level of violence has driven thousands of people out of their neighbourhoods and has begun to divide Baghdad province up along sectarian lines.
Displaced families are living in deteriorating conditions and even though they have moved from other areas, their security is still not guaranteed. Their children no longer go to school and aid workers are unable to offer much help because they fear venturing into the province.
Needs of the displaced
Aid agencies greatly reduced their assistance to the capital and its surrounding cities after the Iraqi Red Crescent closed its 40 subsidiary offices in Baghdad city and suspended its work following the kidnapping last month of its workers and volunteers. The Iraqi Red Crescent is the only remaining aid agency that operates throughout Iraq.
Baghdad province has 14 displacement camps run by Iraqi Red Crescent, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration, and some local NGOs.
“Each camp needs urgent aid assistance, especially food supplies, medicines and educational programmes for children who were forced to leave their schools due to sectarian violence,” said Fatah Ahmed, spokesperson for Iraqi Aid Association (IAA), a Baghdad-based NGO.
According to Iraqi Red Crescent and local NGOs, nearly 220,000 people are displaced in the Baghdad province alone while the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says about 40,000 Iraqis have been displaced in Baghdad province due to sectarian violence since February 2006.
The Brookings Institution says 650,000 Iraqis are internally displaced countrywide, living in camps or abandoned buildings.
“Their main needs are blankets, tents, medicines, food and non-food items but we should not forget that health and education are not being properly afforded to displaced families,” Ahmed said.
“Baghdad’s displaced families are constantly on the move, moving from place to place whenever sectarian violence reaches them. They are not secure at all and volunteers, day after day, are having more difficulties in giving them the required aid support,” he added.
Fakri Obeidi, 36, a displaced person in Baghdad city, said he cannot bear the violence any longer. “We have moved more than 11 times from place to place, running away from the violence, but wherever we go, someone comes to threaten us and force us to leave again,” he said
“My children are getting sick because they cannot stand such daily changes and I don’t have money to leave the country with them. My wife is hospitalised because she has a serious lung infection due to the cold weather. She cannot be treated because there are no medicines at the hospital and I cannot afford to buy them from private pharmacies,” Obeidi added.
Many hospitals have run out of medicines and staff shortages have forced many doctors to work two shifts a day so patients can receive treatment.
“We cannot stand this situation any longer. In addition to being targeted, we now have to work two shifts to help patients because if we don’t do that, they are going to die. The increase in the level of violence is such that every day a higher number of injured patients are brought to our hospitals and the morgue cannot cope,” said Dr Hakeem Dureid, clinician at Yarmouk Hospital in Baghdad.
Read more articles from this series.
Anbar province plagued by violence
Population influx is biggest problem in south
Kurdistan, low in violence but lacking services
Kirkuk’s time-bomb could explode at any time
Violence prevails in Saddam’s home province