Doctors still unable to work normally in Baghdad suburb

Despite the Iraqi premier’s order to relax security measures in two Baghdad suburbs which have seen fierce clashes since 25 March, doctors and medical staff in one of these suburbs are still unable to operate normally, according to the head of a local hospital.

Abbas Owaid, director-general of Fatima al-Zahra hospital, one of four hospitals in Baghdad’s mainly Shia Sadr City, said continuing clashes made it very hard for medical personnel to move around, and hospitals were still in dire need of medical supplies.

"Practically, this decision [to relax security measures] has not yet been implemented on the ground, as clashes and military operations are still going on, and that makes it very hard for our ambulances and workers to move freely," Owaid told IRIN, adding: "Hospitals are still in dire need of blood, medicines, syringes, bandages and other medical stuff.”

Fatima al-Zahra hospital was hit by five mortar rounds during clashes on 6 April and two of its guards were injured.

Explaining the latest government move, Government Spokesman Tahsin al-Sheikhli told a press conference: "Taking into consideration the humanitarian situation in Sadr City and Shula, the prime minister has ordered that ambulances and trucks carrying public services’ maintenance teams, food, and oil products should be allowed into the two areas."

The eastern Sadr City and northeastern Shula suburbs have witnessed clashes between the Mahdi Army militia loyal to radical Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr and US and Iraqi forces, prompting the authorities to impose tight security measures, including a vehicle ban as part of a curfew imposed on Baghdad. The curfew was lifted in the rest of Baghdad on 31 March.

''The fire at the market will add more to our tragedy as food prices have already doubled since 25 March, and we believe tough days lie ahead.''

Fire could lead to price rises

Clashes continued on 6 April and led to the deaths of 22 people. Dozens of others were injured and one of Baghdad's biggest wholesale markets for food, vegetables and fruit was set ablaze, a police officer said on condition of anonymity.

According to a shop owner, the fire at Jamila market will not only increase food prices in Sadr City, where at least 2.5 million people live, but will also affect prices all over Baghdad as the market is one of the main sources of food in the capital.

"More than 50 percent of Baghdad's food items such as rice, flour, cooking oil, frozen imported meat, vegetables, fruit and dozens of other of items are bought from this market," Hamid Hassan Taqi, a 62-year-old resident of Sadr City, told IRIN.

"The fire at the market will add more to our tragedy as food prices have already doubled since 25 March, and we believe tough days lie ahead," Taqi said.

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