Picture Credit: ccun.org
The US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 caused many civilian casualties, but it did not immediately create a major humanitarian crisis or set off mass migration. Soon after, however, Coalition's counter-insurgency operations, including massive attacks on cities like Falluja, led to substantially increased mortality and large displacement, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Beginning in 2006, sectarian clashes worsened and inter-communal violence led to rising death and injury, as well as massive new displacement.
Iraq's death rate has risen sharply. With stepped up Coalition bombing and ground attacks as well as rise in sectarian violence, a growing number of Iraqis are being forced to leave their homes and minority groups are now seriously at risk. According to UNHCR, there are 1.9 million internally displaced people in the country and 2 million refugees escaped to neighboring countries, especially Syria and Jordan. Unemployment and poverty rose sharply, too. According to the United Nations Development Programme, one-third of the population now lives in poverty. Education has broken down. Further, Iraqis basic needs in drinking water, food, sanitation and electricity are not met. Hospitals lack basic medical supplies and are understaffed.
The international relief system has not been able to respond to the growing humanitarian challenges. International agencies have themselves faced serious problems in reaching Iraqis at risk. Iraq's humanitarian emergency has reached a crisis level that compares with some of the world's most urgent calamities.
GPF Perspectives |UN Documents | Articles
Displaced & Refugees As of April 2007, an estimated 1.9 million Iraqis were displaced within the country and over 2.2 million were refugees abroad. The Iraqi government estimates that 50,000 people are leaving their homes each month. The scale of the problem and the difficulty of reaching the displaced put the crisis practically beyond the capacity of the international relief system. Mortality A very large number of Iraqis have died under the occupation and the rate of mortality has risen sharply. In addition to combat deaths, Coalition forces have killed many Iraqi civilians. Iraqis have also died because of the disintegration of the health care system, as well as violence by militias, gangs, and death squads. A 2006 study estimates more than a half million "excess" deaths since 2003.
UNICEF calls attention to the dire situation of Iraqi children. According to this report, violence prevents children from having access to education, healthcare and a stable community life, harming the prospects of the country's future generations. Displacement also leaves children in a precarious position and those who flee to Syria and Jordan are living with scarce resources and being turned away from school. UNICEF urges donor countries to contribute US$42 million toward humanitarian relief efforts to meet the needs of Iraqi children.
Violence in Iraq has subsided slightly during the last year, but the humanitarian situation for minorities in the country is still critical. Iraq is diverse in both ethnicity and religion. While only 3-5 percent of the population subscribe to another religion than Shi’a or Sunni Islam, they represent 10 percent of the internally displaced. According to local NGOs, minority groups are repeatedly intimidated and under attacks, causing increased displacement. They are constantly facing discrimination and marginalization and cannot access basic services such as healthcare, education or employment. (IRIN)
This BBC article examines how life has changed for women and whether women’s rights have improved in Iraq during the last decade. US troops are leaving behind a country torn by war, where people are still lacking power, water, housing and jobs. Women in Iraq are worried about their future rights, and some claim that the newly established democracy has in fact made their rights deteriorate. The promised change that would provide bright prospects for Iraq, with jobs and social security, will not happen any time soon. (BBC)
When UNESCO approved full membership for Palestine last months, the US immediately cut off all financing for the UN agency. The US pays 22 percent of the agency’s budget and an extra $2-3 millions for specific projects. Officials of UNESCO state that these cuts will put the agency’s programs in Iraq at risk, and regard this as a self-defeating move for the US. Important projects in Iraq include education, literacy training and special training to the judiciary. These projects depend on UNESCO money and will be halted or harmed by an overall budget cut. (New York Times)
As Iraq emerges from close to nine years of war, an estimated two million widowed women are part of the humanitarian crisis left behind. They are left to struggle with raising children alone, with little or no money or family support. Twenty-three percent of the oil-rich country’s population lives under the poverty line, of which more than half are women. The International Committee of the Red Cross sees the women-headed households as among the most vulnerable in Iraq today. (Reuters)
In 2010, the number of birth defects in Falluja sky-rocketed. A pending report identifies the most likely culprit as metals being introduced to the environment as a result of US attacks on the city. During two large battles in 2004, the US military used depleted uranium rounds, which some scientists claim leave a toxic residue. Although the US military has agreed to look into the issue and allowed Iraqis to file complaints, it has not responded to any yet. (The Guardian)
Wikileaks reveals the mass killings of December 2006 in Iraq as a planned, systematic strategy of religious and tribal cleansing, resulting in deaths of up to 3800 civilians and 1,300 police officers, insurgents and coalition soldiers. U.S. soldiers have been accused of killing Iraqi civilians at checkpoints, from helicopters, and in operations. Wikileaks notes that these killings were a central reason Iraqis turned against the U.S. presence in their country. Bradley Manning, a member of the U.S. military, has been accused of providing Wikileaks with the documents detailing these killings. Numerous support groups throughout the U.S. have condemned the war crimes perpetrated by armed soldiers and have called on the government to release him. (IPS)
Iraqi refugees face insecurity, a lack of jobs and inadequate health care as they return home from exile. Refugees report explosions, harassment, military operations and kidnapping occurring in their areas of return. The UNHCR discourages returns to Iraq and recommends governments not to send them to the five central provinces, including Baghdad, due to deep insecurity and violence. The UNHCR criticises forced deportations of failed Iraqi asylum seekers from five countries in Europe including Britain, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, and intends to investigate the issue further. (Alternet)
Research shows that deleterious health effects in Fallujah, Iraq, rival those reported among survivors of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Such effects include very high levels of infant mortality, increased prevalence of cancer, leukemia and brain tumors as well as a change in the sex-ratio between newborn boys and girls. These are thought to be a result of heavy attacks in Fallujah by the US forces in 2004 which included the use of white phosphorus shells: an incendiary weapon banned under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. (The Independent)
As of late, issues of oil and security have dictated the discourse on Iraq, overshadowing the urgent question of the country's looming water crisis. Iraq has been historically afflicted with a water scarcity problem which has only been compounded by the previous government's neglect of the issue. The problem has significant social implications with regards to human displacement and food security; a recent UNESCO report states that 100,000 Iraqis have had to flee their communities due to water shortages since 2005. The crisis also has a political dimension in that it bears heavily on Iraq's ties with upriver countries such as Turkey, Syria and Iran, furthermore water as a potential source of conflict in the future should not be ruled out. (Ground Report)
The humanitarian plight of the Christian minority in Iraq has received overwhelming media attention, partly because this group has suffered a disproportionate amount of violence throughout the course of the war. Iraqi Christians are also overrepresented in the refugee population of Iraq. However, due to a large Arab-Christian diaspora worldwide, they have had relatively fewer problems resettling overseas. Furthermore, Christian faith-based organizations are especially active in advocating for registry with the UNHCR and in helping Christian refugees navigate the resettlement process. This means that fewer Iraqi Christians are looking to be repatriated and their numbers within Iraq are steadily dwindling. While there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq in 2003, only 500,000 remain today. (Christian Science Monitor)
After seven years of US occupation, there is still a "dire humanitarian crisis" in Iraq with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimating that there are 4.5 million refugees and displaced people in Iraq. Camps are built under bridges, alongside railroad tracks and near garbage dumps. While the needs of displaced Iraqis have increased, international concern and assistance have diminished, with most refugees receiving no government, US, UN or NGO aid as security is the top financial priority. (uruknet.info)
In Iraq "the women trafficking trade is at its height" as every year more and more women are forced into sexual slavery. The dire economic situation, combining with the rising amount of widows and orphans, has pushed women into prostitution. The lack of security meanwhile has also contributed to this trend, as women become increasingly vulnerable to kidnap by traffickers. (The Media Line)
This article highlights the findings of a 2008 International Red Cross report, which shows that the US-UK invasion of Iraq caused 1.2 million deaths, including, 2,000 doctors, created 4.7 million refugees and resulted in the assassination or imprisonment of 5,500 academics and intellectuals. Despite the devastation of the ongoing six year occupation, the media continues to neglect the Iraq war and chooses to report on issues such as Darfur and Afghanistan instead. (al Jazeera)
Iraq's Shocking Human Toll: About 1 Million Killed, 4.5 Million Displaced, 1-2 Million Widows, 5 Million Orphans (February 2, 2009)
This Alertnet article puts in perspective the Bush Administration's claims that Iraq was a US victory. The UN estimates that 4.5 million Iraqis are displaced, less than 40 percent of households have access to clean water and more than 40 percent of children in Basra cannot attend school. The US-led invasion has left 5 million orphans and according to household surveys the number of violent deaths, directly attributable to warfare, is likely to amount to 1.3 million.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reports that under US occupation the quality and quantity of water supplies in Iraq has drastically deteriorated, putting millions of Iraqis at risk from diseases like cholera. The ICRC states there is an urgent need to address the humanitarian situation as 40 percent of Iraqis still rely on poor water quality to survive. (Guardian)
Refugees International states the US must give Syria support as it shoulders the burden of two million Iraqi refugees. Syria is struggling to cope with the refugee crisis including a food shortage that puts an increasing number of vulnerable Iraqis in urgent need of help.
The US promises to accept 5,000 more Iraqi refugees, making the US annual target for 2009, 17,000. Humanitarian groups are demanding the US shoulder more of the burden for caring for the reported 4.7 million uprooted Iraqis, which resulted from the US-led invasion. (Inter Press Service)
Before the US Occupation in 2003, Baghdad Medical City hospital complex provided some of the best healthcare in Baghdad. The US Occupation has led to a great deterioration of care in this and other hospitals and it is still too dangerous for Iraqi doctors to even access basic medicine from stores. (Inter Press Service)
Human rights activists find that, since the US-led invasion in 2003, the female part of the Iraqi population has suffered disproportionately. Rape, violence and honor killings are rising in the country and The World Health Organization (WHO) states that 21.2 percent of Iraqi women have experienced physical violence. Different groups attack the women for numerous reasons ranging from working outside their homes to not wearing certain types of clothes. (Uruknet)
This report by the International Crisis Group argues that the Iraqi refugee crisis ranks as the world's second largest humanitarian crisis exceeded only by Afghanistan. Since many refugees come from the middle class, their flight has impoverished Iraq and deprived the country of its professionals. The report shows how the US has downplayed the issue, provided far less assistance to host countries than needed, and only admitted a few refugees across the US border.
Thousands of Iraqi refugees in Jordan are getting poorer because the aid from UNHCR and the European Community is not sent to them directly. Instead it goes to the Jordanian government which uses the money to improve education and healthcare for its own citizens. With rising food and fuel prices and little sign that the Iraqis will be able to return home in the immediate future, aid agencies emphasize the importance of direct aid and the moral responsibility of Western and Arab countries to help those displaced by the war. (Christian Science Monitor)
2.8 million internally displaced Iraqis live in poor conditions without access to shelter, food, health care and water. Skyrocketing food and rent prices, and little hope of employment exacerbate the difficult situation. This report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) argues that donor countries must increase assistance to these vulnerable communities as soon as possible. The neighboring countries need help from Europe and US to accommodate the refugees.
The US army claims that Iraq is becoming a safe and stable country. According to the Pentagon, violence has dropped at least 40 percent since February 2007. But civilians still die in prodigious numbers and people lack electricity, portable water and hospital supplies. This article argues that the casualties are decreasing because millions of Iraqis have fled the country. On this background, speaking of "success" or "good news" in Iraq seems obscene.(TomDispatch)
Abdul-Khaliq Zankana, a member of the Iraqi parliament, warns that the large number of Iraqi refugees may increase instability in the region. The majority of these refugees lack jobs, health care and education and receive little or no government assistance. Zankana urges the Iraqi government to earmark 5 percent of the increasing oil profits to help both refugees and the internally displaced. He also calls on neighboring countries and the West to adopt a comprehensive strategy to help exiled Iraqis return to their homes. (Irin News)
European countries are sending Iraqi asylum-seekers back to their home, despite widespread violence, kidnappings and arbitrary killings. According to this Amnesty International report, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq has reached shocking proportions and 4.7 million Iraqis have fled the country. Neighboring states have imposed visa restrictions for refugees and western countries are forcing Iraqis to leave instead of giving them adequate care. The report calls on Europe, particularly those countries who participated in the US-led invasion, to recognize the urgency of the crisis by assisting Iraq's displaced people.
A large number of babies born in the city of Fallujah suffer from illness and deformity like Down's syndrome, weak hearts and brain damage. Doctors believe the incidents are due to the toxic and radioactive material used by the US military in two massive bombing campaigns on the city four years ago. According to Inter Press Service, toxic materials have severely increased the rate of cancer in Iraq, as well as among US veterans who served in the Gulf War and Iraq.(Inter Press Service)
In Sadr City, Muqtada Al-Sadr's stronghold in Baghdad, US forces struggle to gain support from Iraqi citizens, yet deprive residents of essential needs such as water and electricity. Piles of sewage and trash line the streets causing Iraqis to further condemn the US occupation. Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army, however, "has long used the delivery of aid and basic services as a means of building political influence." (New York Times)
As the war in Iraq enters into its sixth year, this Inter Press Service article describes the realities of life in Baghdad and disputes the claims by the Bush administration that the 2003 invasion has been a "successful endeavor." The average Iraqi home has less than five hours of electricity a day, 70 percent of the population does not have access to safe drinking water and according to Oxfam four million Iraqis need emergency assistance. Over 4,000 US soldiers have died and thousands more are chronically injured. Despite all this chaos, the US continues to build an embassy in Baghdad "the size of the Vatican," suggesting the US will remain for some time to come.
This ISN Security Watch article addresses the relationship between private security companies (PSCs) and humanitarian organizations working in Iraq. This growing affiliation results from three factors: "the dangers facing humanitarian aid workers, the discourse on the use and morality of armed private security services and finally, the tendency of government agencies to rely upon NGOs and private contractors to implement their programs." Despite this alliance, many NGOs oppose the use of PSCs to further humanitarian aid because of the controversy surrounding private security firms and their lack of accountability.
According to this report by Women for Women International, "90.6% of Iraqi women surveyed in 2004 expressed optimism about the future, while only 26.9% of those surveyed in 2007 remained optimistic." A large majority of women do not feel protected by the occupying forces and believe the US army aggravates the security situation in Iraq. The survey concludes that while Iraqi women largely hope for a central government in Baghdad, most doubt the possibility of a unified Iraq, even within the next five years.
This report by International Rescue Committee (IRC) details the dire humanitarian crisis within Iraq and the very large number of refugees residing in neighboring countries. According to the report, Syria has one million Iraqi refugees and Jordan has over 750,000. IRC calls upon the international community, especially the US, to offer sufficient funding to these host countries and to ease the crisis of refugees by increasing resettlement, including within the US. IRC suggests the US government increase its proposed number of Iraqi admissions from 12,000 to 30,000 per year over the next four years.
Curfews in Iraq are imposed every day under the US occupation, while they occurred only twice under the rule of Saddam Hussein: "for the census in the 1970s and 1980s." Curfews restrict the flow of people, public goods and services, resulting in tolls on the economic, psychological, educational and medical aspects of life in Iraq. If Iraqi citizens have a medical emergency, they must stay indoors and young children remain unable to go to school. (Inter Press Service)
According to this Associated Press article, Iraqi citizens blame the government for the lack of basic necessities such as water, electricity and kerosene, with the average Iraqi earning only half of the approximate monthly cost of kerosene. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's most important supporting political party and the largest Shiite bloc in the Iraqi Parliament, criticized the government's role in the situation and called for quick action on behalf of the citizens.
In an independent report carried out by the organization Medact, researchers found the occupying forces failed to protect Iraq's medical institutions, including the staff, in violation of the Geneva Convention. Problems facing Iraqi medical facilities include "staff shortages, lack of an institutional framework, intermittent electricity, unsafe water, and frequent violations of medical neutrality." Expert healthcare bodies in Iraq often fail to receive funding from reconstruction contracts. (Guardian)
This article exposes the unacknowledged effects of the Bush administration's "surge" strategy, which deployed an additional 28,000 troops beginning in 2007. Since the "surge" began, the number of displaced Iraqis has quadrupled. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are 2.3 million internally displaced persons within Iraq, as well as over 2.3 million Iraqis who have fled the country. Contrary to information proffered by the White House, a recent ABC/BBC poll reports that "98 percent of Sunnis and 84 percent of Shias in Iraq want all U.S. forces out of the country." (Inter Press Service)
More cases of the waterborne disease, cholera have been reported in 18 provinces of Iraq since the first reported case of death in the north of the country in August 2007. In this New York Times article, the author draws a connection between the rise in treatable diseases such as cholera and the support of insurgents. The author calls on the Iraqi government and the US to create clean water systems, improve sanitation and manage waste.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis seeking refuge in Syria and Jordan are struggling to find enough money to survive and are turning to illegal work. With the two countries tightening immigration many refugees are forced to leave after their three month visas expire or stay without a work permit. According to aid agencies, Iraqi women and girls as young as 12 years of age are turning to the sex trade to support themselves and their families. (BBC News)
Numerous Iraqis have died from an outbreak of cholera in Baghdad. Reports indicate that up to 100 people have died from the disease and witnesses fear that with the rainy season approaching and the lack of water and sewerage infrastructure that there could be an epidemic. UNICEF suggests only one in three Iraqi children have access to safe water- with streets and waterways polluted with raw sewerage and garbage. The waterborne disease is preventable through treatment with chlorine and improved hygiene. (Observer)
The authors of this New York Times article claim that as a result of the US troop enforcement security in Baghdad has improved and refugees are returning home. However, commentators say that US and Iraqi government data is unreliable and that refugees are returning as they can not find work or money in neighboring countries like Syria, where they sought refuge. According to the United Nations an estimated 40,000 families of refugees and 10,000 families of internally displaced persons are returning to Iraq, particularly Baghdad. The Iraqi government, however, has no plan in place to provide aid, shelter and other services to refugees who return to Iraq and often find their homes destroyed or occupied.
According to an unpublished US military poll on the quality of life in Iraq, Iraqis are unsatisfied with the provision of basic services, particularly water, gas, electricity and sanitation systems. The poll suggests that overall the conditions are worsening with some areas of Iraq receiving only 11 hours of electricity per day. While commentators suggest that it is difficult to gain accurate data on improvements in security, some witnesses argue that "it was definitely so much better for us before the warâ€¦we were never suffering the way we are now." The Pentagon is set to release a progress report to Congress in early December 2007, but this poll suggests that life in Iraq is far from "normal." (Washington Post)
A campaign aimed at defeating militias in Iraq has led to the imprisonment of hundreds of people in southern Baghdad. Witnesses say people who are accused of being members of militias that support Iran are being abducted by US and Iraqi forces. Some witnesses say the campaign actually targets those who do not follow Iranian Cleric Ali Al-Sistani. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that over 60,000 people are detained in Iraq. (Inter Press Service)
Since 2003, Iraqi teachers and professors have often been the targets of violent attacks. In early November 2007, two teachers were killed by gunmen and a principal was abducted. Witnesses in Iraq say that some 46,000 Iraqis who fled to neighboring Syria and Jordan returned to the country in October 2007 due to "improving security conditions." However, while attacks on school teachers and Iraqi citizens continues some commentators argue that there has been little improvement in the security situation. (Los Angeles Times)
With over 4 million Iraqi refugees internally displaced or fleeing to neighboring countries, Iraq represents "one of the largest and fastest growing humanitarian crises" in the world. Both Jordan and Syria have closed their borders, after taking in over 1.9 million refugees. While refugees in these countries have limited access to education and health systems, many refugees face persecution, are living illegally and are unable to work. The author of this Globalist article argues that the US must make this crisis a top priority, provide funding for countries hosting refugees and increase the number of Iraqis who are allowed to seek asylum in the US.
Mismanagement and alleged fraud relating to a US$27 million reconstruction project of Iraq's largest dam has resulted in no progress in repairing the structure. A report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction finds that "fundamental flaws" including seepage and erosion render the Mosul dam "the most dangerous dam in the world." Some commentators predict more than 500,000 people are at risk, as the collapse of the dam may cause a flood wave 20 meters deep in Mosul and flooding along the Tigris River to Baghdad. (BBC)
This Washington Post article follows a battalion of soldiers as they reach the end of their 14 month tour in Iraq. The soldiers say that when they first began patrolling the streets of Sadiyah, a middle-class suburb of Baghdad, the shops were open and people were walking around. At the end of their tour, the soldiers say the area is littered with trash, open sewers and burnt out houses and cars. One soldier remarked that he will leave "being very skeptical of everything."
Since the beginning of 2007, over 1,800 children and 1,1000 women have sought treatment at a non-government organization in Baghdad for psychological disorders brought on by the war. According to the organization, Keeping Children Alive, many Iraqis cannot seek help from the hospitals as the only psychiatric unit in the capital is poorly staffed and lacks supplies. Witnesses say that many children have developed mental illnesses due to the fear of violence, the distress of losing family members and witnessing trauma. Since May 2007 six NGOs that help sufferers of mental illness have been forced to close down, leaving many Iraqis untreated and without any options. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon reports on the work of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The Secretary-General summarizes the political developments in Iraq, citing political boycotts, assassinations, resignations and the formation of alliances. He criticizes the inadequate effort by the Iraqi government to provide basic services to internally displaced Iraqis The report concedes that ongoing violence in Iraq impedes the work of the UN in dealing with human rights violations, including the plight of detainees held in Iraqi and MNF facilities. The Secretary-General suggests there is an opportunity for the UN to increase its role in Iraq, especially in the area of national reconciliation.
The province of Missan, south of Baghdad is struggling to provide safe drinking water to its population of 790,000 with over 40,000 of them internally displaced refugees. According to witnesses, the water in Missan has not been treated since early September 2007 due to a lack of chemicals and instead, people are turning to the Tigris River. Aid agencies claim the river is heavily polluted and as people cannot afford to buy filters or boil the water for drinking this increases the spread of diseases such as cholera. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
The World Health Organization reports over 3,300 confirmed cases of cholera in Iraq. At least 14 Iraqis have died from the disease. Some commentators point to fractures in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, the "sectarian" divide in Iraqi hospitals and lack of access to medical supplies as reasons for the outbreak. However, other commentators blame the US for failing to reconstruct crucial infrastructure and placing restrictions on the importation of chlorine for fear that it will be used by insurgents in bomb making. ( Tehran Times)
Iraqi refugees seeking resettlement in the US may wait up to two years before being admitted into the country. In a State Department cable, Ambassador Ryan C Crocker criticizes the bureaucratic obstacles in processing some 10,000 refugees referred by the UN for refugee status in the US. He recommends fast tracking security checks, increasing the number of processing officers and conducting interviews in Baghdad. Washington has been criticized since the beginning of the war for its reluctance to accept Iraqis, many of whom work alongside the US. Since 2003, the US has accepted only 1,521 Iraqi refugees. Meanwhile, Syria and Jordan struggle to accept the 60,000 refugees that flee across Iraq's borders each month. (Washington Post)
In this New York Times column, Bob Herbert addresses the largely untold story of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Herbert cites GPF's report "War and Occupation in Iraq" on the plight of the two million displaced Iraqis and he mentions the equally large exodus of refugees, including nearly half the nation's doctors. Iraq has experienced a "rain of death" under the occupation and many of its children are "orphaned, homeless, malnourished and worse." President George Bush has warned that a US withdrawal will cause a "humanitarian nightmare," Herbert notes, but "this nightmare arrived a good while ago."
A United Nations quarterly report on human rights in Iraq which was due in July will not be released until October 2007. The report describes violence committed by Iraqi militia and insurgents and documents human rights abuses by US and Iraqi forces. According to UN officials, Ambassador Ryan Crocker requested the delay to allow the Iraqi government to "study" the report. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon will meet in New York on September 22, 2007 for high level discussions on Iraq. UN officials suggest the delay "is in part to avoid embarrassing Maliki on the eve of the New York meeting." (Independent)
According to the Iraqi Medical Association (IMA), up to 75 percent of doctors, pharmacists and nurses have left their jobs and 55 percent have left the country. Doctors are leaving due to a lack of access to medicines and equipment, low salaries and threats from militants who reportedly kidnap doctors who treat patients from a different sect than the militants. The IMA reports that the shortage of medical staff across Iraq is critical especially in small towns and villages. (Integrated Regional Information Networks News)
Teachers, parents and administrators are concerned about the long term effects of the failing education system in Iraq. According to UNICEF, the education system in Iraq was considered one of the best in the Middle East. Since the occupation in 2003, commentators say schools in Baghdad in particular, are plagued by disruptions from violence, including reports of kidnappings and murders of students and teachers, poor facilities and a lack of resources. UNICEF reports that in 2005 - 2006 an estimated 800,000 children did not attend school. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting)
The US publicly blames the displacement of Iraqis on "sectarian" violence. But this New York Times article describes how the US surge strategy has caused the number of internally displaced Iraqis to double to 1.1 million since its February 2007 implementation. This is despite the Bush administration's claim that the troop build-up improves security.
Since 2003, one in ten Iraqis have left Iraq, including doctors, lawyers, judges, engineers and government bureaucrats, who are instrumental in rebuilding the country. Jordan and Syria have accepted close to 2 million refugees. Contrast this with the mere 615 Iraqi refugees accepted by the US and Britain since the invasion and it is apparent the Coalition is shifting responsibility for the humanitarian disaster to the UN and Iraq's neighboring countries. (Spiegel Online International)
The ongoing violence in Iraq has limited aid workers' access to the most vulnerable communities. UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes calls for more action and resources to improve the plight of Iraq's refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs). In that same vein, Holmes urges that humanitarian efforts remain independent of any political, security or economic agenda. (International Herald Tribune)
A report prepared by Oxfam and other aid agencies, describes the dire need for emergency aid for eight million Iraqis, 43 per cent of whom are living in "absolute poverty." In the face of mass displacement, a lack of basic services, and an exodus of teachers and other professionals, almost 800,000 Iraqi children no longer attend school and 92 per cent suffer from learning difficulties. There is a danger that a generation of Iraqi children will grow up uneducated unless schooling is provided immediately.
Iraq's healthcare system continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate. Like many others in Iraq, the main hospital in the city of Baquba offers free treatment but suffers from severe shortages of medicine, equipment and doctors. In the face of costly private clinic services and the precarious security situation, ordinary Iraqis struggle to get basic medical assistance. (Inter Press Service)
The US-led war in Iraq has deepened ethno-religious tensions and further subjected Iraq's minorities to persecution. Members of Iraq's smaller and lesser known communities, such as the Mandaeans, make up a significant proportion of the two million Iraqis fleeing the violence. Iraqi councilman Hunain Qaddo laments the exodus of the minority groups and the possible loss of "the value and culture of these people who have enriched [Iraqi] society." (BBC)
The latest report by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) evaluates how well countries observe asylum-seekers' basic rights, including ensuring freedom of movement and providing physical protection and economic assistance. The USCRI links the unrelenting violence in Iraq directly to the burgeoning global refugee crisis. Iraqis constituted nearly half of the two million people worldwide fleeing their homelands in 2006. (Inter Press Service)
With no electricity to run their air conditioners, a majority of Iraqi families seek refuge from the oppressive heat indoors by sleeping on their flat rooftops – exposing themselves to the chronic violence. After four years of war, Iraqis' access to water, electricity and fuel has reached the lowest level in decades. Many attribute the collapse of these most basic services to both government inefficiency and the intense fighting triggered by the US occupation. (Reuters)
Even as two of the largest rivers in the Middle East course through Iraq, the country's once-thriving agricultural sector has suffered significantly. Faced with grave fuel and electricity shortages, Iraqi farmers cannot run generators to pump water for irrigating their crops. After a decade of crippling UN sanctions and more than four years of a US-led war, efforts to rebuild these vital services have largely failed due to corruption and mismanagement. (Inter Press Service)
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died violently at the hands of coalition forces. Yet mainstream media reports of the daily fighting in Iraq often only include "brief accounts of several different operations, none of them presented as major events." This CounterPunch article warns that such coverage grossly understates the rate of non-combatant fatalities – a statistic that will likely escalate as the US military presence in Iraq expands.
The destruction of Iraq's sewage and water networks has left most Iraqis with little access to clean drinking water – dealing a direct blow to the health of the population. Due to the inferior quality of the water supply, health officials expect a higher incidence of waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid, especially among young children and the elderly. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
Extensive US-led military operations such as aerial bombing have led to massive destruction of homes and sometimes entire communities in Iraq. Consequently, several hundred thousand Iraqis have fled their residences. Temporary displacement could develop into a long-term phenomenon as ongoing violence and a lack of compensation for losses prevent civilians from returning to their homes. (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre)
According to this Los Angeles Times article, US military officials concede that President George W. Bush's plan for a US troop build-up in Iraq has led to "greater chances" of civilian casualties. Some attribute the soldiers' killings of noncombatants to stress from the conflict and vengeance for the deaths of fellow servicemen. The escalating violence attests to the chaos stemming from the prolonged presence of US troops in Iraq.
With a drastic increase of violence and disappearances at checkpoints in Baghdad , some citizens say they now fear checkpoints more than they fear explosions. Over a hundred Iraqis have gone missing after passing through checkpoints, which are run by Iraqi police, soldiers or insurgents. Many blame sectarian tension for the heightened insecurity at these alleged security posts, others argue that the problem lies with the security forces abusing their right to "arrest whomever they want." (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
Amatullah Ibrahim, a senior official in Iraq's Ministry of Environment, stated "that Iraq's environment had been totally forgotten and could well be the worst in the world today." The dire environmental situation is a direct result of war, outdated oil production methods and a lack of security which inhibits the proper removal of waste. The high level of pollution is not only changing Iraq's climate, but also is a major detriment to public health. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
Taking Sides or Saving Lives: Existential Choices for the Humanitarian Enterprise in Iraq (June, 2007)
This report by The Feinstein International Center assesses the humanitarian efforts in Iraq. According to the report, the humanitarian response has been slow and insufficient, due in part to concerns about the security of humanitarian workers. The study found Iraqis were responsive to humanitarian assistance, but many perceived the UN and NGOs as part of Coalition forces and were suspicious of aid workers as "spies." The report recommends aid agencies distance themselves from MNF forces and ensure neutrality in order to gain the support of Iraqis. This is particularly important for the UN, if it is to overcome its "failureâ€¦to live up to its mandated humanitarian assistance and protection responsibilities in Iraq."
In southern Iraq, leukemia among children and breast cancer among women have increased by 20 percent since the start of the war. Doctors and researchers blame this surge on the breakdown of the Iraqi health care system, harmful pesticides used to grow food and depression of the immune system brought on by living in a constant war zone. Cancer deaths make up 45 percent of total deaths and children are frequently born without limbs or organs or develop cancer in as little time as four weeks after birth. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
The New York Times reveals that an increasing number of Iraqi women living in Syria are turning to prostitution as they have no other means of supporting their families. According to an official at the United Nations refugee agency in Damascus, young girls are now involved in the sex trade and in some cases are being smuggled into Syria, where most of the girls working in this business are now Iraqi. The Iraq War has forced 1.2 million Iraqis into Syria, but the country has no proper infrastructure to deal with the huge influx of refugees.
The medical system in Iraq has almost completely broken down, including the flawed distribution of life-saving drugs. Cedric Turlan from the NGO Coordinating Committee in Iraq blames the highly bureaucratic and centralized system of quality control testing for the slowed distribution of much needed drugs. Conversely, Rashid Fae'ek, a prominent public health analyst, blames the lack of security, including attacks by various factions on medical centers and healthcare workers. While the rich can buy their medicine at private pharmacies, the poor must wait for months or forgo treatment altogether. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
According to a report from UNICEF, the worsening security situation in Iraq has put 4.8 million children under the age of five at "increased risk." Statistics from this UN agency also show that a fifth of Iraqi children are chronically malnourished. UNICEF has proposed a US$42 million program in Iraq, Syria and Jordan in order to cope with the rising concerns of this vulnerable population. However, the US and Iraqi government should also take more responsibility for addressing the plight of Iraqi children. (AlertNet)
Nearly one thousand Palestinians remain stranded in the al-Waleed refugee camp located on the border between Iraq and Syria. UNHCR officials highlight the untenable living conditions in the camp, including a glaring lack of necessary medical provisions, potable water and protection from the weather conditions of a desert summer. Such conditions make the work of the UNHCR team next to impossible. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
Since the beginning of the US occupation in Iraq, the country's economic and social conditions have deteriorated, forcing thousands of children to leave school to work for Sunni and Shia militias. A growing number of these children are producing bombs for armed groups and helping to fight occupation forces, risking dangerous injuries or death while earning only US$ 3 a day. The US and the Iraqi government have been unable to safeguard the lives of Iraqi children in direct violation of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which states that every child should enjoy protection and have access to education. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
The State Department declared that the US government has accepted only 68 Iraqi refugees in six months, claiming it lacks enough personnel to complete the immigration process. These numbers are far below the 2 million Iraqis that have left the country since 2003. Further, according to David Mack, the vice president of the Middle East Institute, it is clear that the US is not making a serious effort to receive these refugees because this sends the message that the security in Iraq is not improving. Refugees International insists that the US has a responsibility to address the humanitarian crisis in the country, having provoked it. (USA Today)
The World Health Organization warns of the chaotic health situation in Iraq. The escalating violence is increasing the pressure on hospitals that already face a lack of equipment, medicines and doctors. The Iraqi government estimates that roughly 70 percent of wounded Iraqis die in hospitals due to these shortages. Further, the health situation of the population is dire, with approximately 80 percent of Iraqis having no access to sanitation facilities and 21 percent of children under five suffering from malnutrition. Displacement has also intensified pressure not only on the Iraqi healthcare system, but also on those of neighboring countries.
The humanitarian crisis in Iraq is reaching alarming levels, says the International Committee of the Red Cross. According to this report, the country's healthcare facilities face grave shortages of staff and supplies, and the water, sewage and electricity infrastructure is in a critical condition. Further, many Iraqis suffer of food shortages and malnutrition. The report says that "the conflict in Iraq is inflicting immense suffering on the entire population" and calls on governments and non-state actors to respect international law and protect the lives of Iraqi civilians.
About one million internally displaced people in Iraq have no source of livelihood and depend on the Public Distribution System (PDS) for food and fuel. However, the efficiency of this program has been declining due to corruption within the Iraqi government and violence that prevents trucks from reaching those in need. Further, the assistance program does not get to internally displaced Iraqis in the northern governorates. In order to resolve this situation, Refugees International calls on Iraqi and Coalition forces to increase the security for PDS convoys and urges the UN to recognize and address the humanitarian crisis in the country.
This BRusssells Tribunal article points out that the conditions of Iraq's health system are deteriorating. According to the Iraq Medical Association, 90 percent of hospitals in Iraq lack essential equipment and 18,000 of 34,000 physicians left the country. Further, the report of the NGO Coordinating Committee in Iraq revealed that military forces occupied Mosul Hospital and ambulances have been attacked on a regularly basis in Najaf, Fallujah and other parts of Anbar province. US forces have been also intruding into hospitals daily and Iraqis have refrained from using hospitals for fear of being shot. The US occupation of Iraq has resulted in a massive public health disaster for Iraqis.
After four years of US occupation, the vulnerable groups in Iraq still do not have access to humanitarian assistance due to the fragile security situation and the killing of aid workers, which has caused many NGOs to flee the country. According to the NGO Coordinating Committee in Iraq (NCCI), the number of aid workers killed since 2003 has reached 83 – the highest in any single country worldwide. Iraq's humanitarian emergency has reached a crisis level, but the international relief system has not been able to respond accordingly. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq (March 6, 2007)
According to this report released by MADRE, an international women's rights organization, violence against women is rising in Iraq since the US invasion in 2003. Breaking a taboo in the country, two Iraqi women made public allegations of rape against Iraqi security forces. Madre's Communication Director Yifat Susskind said that "what stands out about that allegation is the fact that those accused rapists have been trained and armed and funded by the United States." The report also blames the US for failing to protect women's rights in Iraq and for having sparked the wave of violence against women while supporting Shiite militias that are known for such attacks.
According to this Los Angeles Times article, the US government attempts to justify its occupation of Iraq by arguing that a "possible genocide" could result from the troops' departure. Those who defend the US presence in Iraq have failed to explain how US forces could reverse the civil war, especially since after four years the US government has not succeeded in stabilizing the security situation and preventing huge flow of refugees. The author argues that in order to avoid a greater bloodletting in Iraq, Washington should announce a withdrawal and address the humanitarian crisis in the country.
According to a report by Minority Rights Group International, a "huge exodus" of Iraq's minorities is taking place in the country as these groups are constantly attacked by kidnappers and death squads that identify them with the occupation forces or see them as easy targets. The UN High Commissioner of Refugees says that 30 per cent of the 1.8 million Iraqis that left the country come from minorities. Some of these groups, which are the oldest communities in the world and may be 4,000 years old, are now facing the risk of extinction and their cultures could disappear. (Independent)
Despite all its agricultural resources, Iraq is facing a collapse in food supplies. According to a report by the International Organization of Migration, 1.5 million internally displaced people in the country lack adequate food. Local and international food aid delivered to Iraq has diminished after kidnappings of activists in the country. Further, most of the local farmers are unable to get their food to the markets due to security reasons and many of them went bankrupt after the US administration decreased the tariffs on imported products. Nevertheless, foreign companies supply Iraqis with poor quality food, which now, due to inflation, is very expensive. (Inter Press Service)
This Integrated Regional Information Networks article argues the new Baghdad security plan, which aims to diminish the sectarian violence in the city, will only worsen the already chaotic situation. As part of the plan, the Iraqi government ordered those who occupy the homes of displaced families to vacate the properties within 15 days. Nevertheless, this could provoke an increase in the number of homeless people - as those leaving have nowhere else to go – and contribute to the rise of violence. According to aid workers and analysts, this step is premature as the government cannot ensure the security of those displaced and "the plan would create more problems than it would solve."
A growing number of Iraqis have been refraining from using hospitals due to fear of being shot or arrested by insurgent groups and official forces. US troops intrude into hospitals on a daily basis, placing or looking for snipers on the roof and arresting doctors. According to an Iraqi doctor, "whatever we say they arrest us and treat us, doctors, as if we are terrorists. They take us for interrogation and threaten us. So, in reality, we face danger from the insurgents as well as from the [official] troops." This constitutes a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which state that hospitals are and should remain neutral and accessible to everybody, especially civilians. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
A study published by the Association of Iraqi Psychologists points out that millions of Iraqi children suffer from psychological traumas due to extreme violence in the country, raising concerns about the mental health of future generations. According to parents, teachers and doctors contacted by the Guardian, children have shown distress signals, from nightmares and bedwetting to muteness, panic attacks and violence towards other children. Nevertheless, most of the children go untreated as the country lacks child psychology units and mental health programs and many of the best doctors have been killed or fled the country.
This Integrated Regional Information Networks article calls attention to the growing number of Palestinians fleeing Iraq due to violent attacks by Iraqi militias and the harassment by Iraqi authorities. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 700 Palestinians are stranded in camps at the Iraq-Syria border – denied entry by the Syrian government – and they are living in terrible conditions, with no access to potable water and medicines. UNHCR urges the neighboring and resettlement countries to find a solution for these refugees.
100 British and Iraqi doctors wrote a letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair criticizing the terrible shortages of Iraqi hospitals and the lack of basic medicines, which has caused the deaths of hundreds of children. According to Save the Children, 59 in 1,000 newborn babies are dying in Iraq, one of the highest mortality rates in the world. The doctors urge the UK and the US to respect the Geneva and the Hague Conventions, which require the occupiers to address the medical needs of the population. (Independent)
Violence and displacement have grown in Iraq since the US invasion, with approximately two million refugees and 1.7 million internally displaced people in the country. Nevertheless, the US has not taken responsibility in addressing this humanitarian crisis. The US government has only granted refugee status to 466 Iraqis since 2003 and has only allocated US$20 million for humanitarian aid in Iraq for the year 2007, which is far below its daily spending on military operations. This Inter Press Service article argues the US has the "moral obligation" to address the humanitarian crisis in the country, having provoked it.
The US launched air strikes against rural villages in Baqubah, claiming the offensive aimed to crush the insurgency. US officials said the attacks were successful and there were no civilian casualties. However, according to the media officer for Diyala province council, at least 14 civilians were killed and approximately 110 families were without water and food supplies as there was no prior announcement about the offensive. The Institute of Peace and Development in Iraq also reported that US troops have blocked NGOs' access to the villages, hindering them from helping those Iraqis with urgent needs. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
This Global Research article calls attention to the consequences of the war faced by Iraqi children. Extreme poverty has caused the increase in gangs which are kidnapping children and forcing them into the sex trade. Further, 40,000 Iraqi children have been displaced due to violence and many more are facing psychological problems. According to Save the Children, 818,000 children in Iraq are unable to attend school, while those who do go do not receive proper education. These shortages constitute a violation of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which states that every child should enjoy protection and have access to education.