“Acute shortages” in clash-hit Baghdad suburbs

A humanitarian crisis is looming in two sprawling Shia suburbs in Baghdad, as clashes continue between government forces (backed by US soldiers) and Shia militants, members of parliament and residents said on 10 April.

"Sadr City and Shula are in a very tragic humanitarian situation as residents are suffering acute shortages of food and medicines," Iraq's parliamentary committee on human rights said in a statement.

"Just as we demand that everyone respect Iraq's constitution and laws and the government's authority to impose law and order, so we also demand that the government respect human rights and not neglect the humanitarian side," said committee member Amer Thamir, a MP from the eastern from Baghdad's eastern constituency of Mashtal, in the statement.

He said the prices of food, medicines and services in the two suburbs had soared and that the government “must offer humanitarian aid and facilitate the distribution of food and medicines to all people".

Fighting in the suburbs erupted on 25 March and has exacerbated the plight of locals, many of whom are poor people from southern Iraq who came to Baghdad to find jobs.

Father-of-five Khalil Murtadha Amer was paying a visit to his parents' house in Sadr City when the fighting started: "I can't leave the neighbourhood on foot as my wife can't walk more than 200-300 metres due to surgery she had a few months ago, and we are running out of food.”

Bread prices have tripled, he said.

He said the hospitals had been swamped with people hurt in the clashes, and were now offering limited services: they had, for example, stopped receiving pregnant women. Local midwives had doubled their fees to nearly US$200 per birth.

sm/ar/cb