On 10 May the Government of Iraq (GoI) and the Sadrist movement agreed to a cease-fire to end the current conflict in Sadr City. The implementation of the terms of the cease-fire will be a difficult task. Military operations are ongoing but tend to be more targeted. Access restrictions continue to limit the supply of goods and services, particularly in Sectors 1-9. However, activity in the rest of the city beyond the newly-erected wall has increased with small businesses and public institutions reopening. As a result, humanitarian workers and providers of essential services face difficulties reaching affected areas, limiting the population's access to food, water and health care. Between 24 March, when the current clashes began, and 13 May, 456 people have been killed in Sadr City, according to the UN.
On 23 March, the GoI launched military operations in Mosul to target alleged Al Qaeda militias. Curfew was declared on 9 May and is ongoing. House searches started in many neighbourhoods in Mosul and entrances to Mosul City are blocked. Access to affected populations is difficult but as of yet, there are no reported additional humanitarian needs identified. Between 23 March and 13 May, 294 persons are reported killed in Mosul.
Analysis of humanitarian need in Sadr City:
In Sectors 1-9, where there are approximately 20,000 families (150,000 individuals), access is particularly problematic due to a vehicle ban and strict controls upon pedestrian access into and out of the area. These sectors face food and water shortages, limited medical care, displacement and damage to public infrastructure and housing.
Of 20 public health care centres (PHCCs) in Sadr City, five are closed. The Hakim and Habibiya hospitals are closed, according to an international NGO. Some pharmacies, particularly in sectors 1-10 and 20, are closed, according to Premiere Urgence. Irregular staff attendance at health facilities, including Alkindy hospital in Rusafa and the Imam Ali hospital, and the lack of medical supplies (e.g. drugs, medical supplies and therapeutic food for management of severe cases of malnutrition) has reduced medical capacity to respond, according to NGO sources. Electricity outages and fuel shortages have halted routine immunization as PHCCs, according to UNICEF.
An estimated 4,700 families are seeking refuge from the fighting and disruption of essential services in Sadr city (affected sectors are 1-14, 56-58 and 70-72), according to the Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM). A reported 62 families have returned on 12 May to sectors 12 and 57. Five hundred displaced families from Sectors 1-9 are in temporary shelter in six locations on the periphery of Sadr City, according to IOM. These people are seeking shelter in mosques, schools and with host families in the northeast sectors of Sadr City. Almost all residents have left Sector 10 due to heavy fighting, according to NGO sources.
Destruction and damage to property
At this early stage, the number of houses that have been damaged or destroyed due to fighting in sectors 1-19 and 60-80 is unknown. One local NGO estimates that 10% of inhabitants of sectors 1-9 are living in damaged housing.
Electricity is disrupted in Sectors 1-9, with no electricity in sectors 4, 5 and 7.
Access to clean water and sanitation
In Sectors 10, 11, 83 and area 524, water pipe infrastructure has been damaged and in sectors 4, 5 and 11, the sanitation infrastructure has been damaged, according to UNICEF. In addition, there are water shortages in many parts of the city, according to NGO and UN sources.
In two locations in the city, the government has not been able to collect refuse as road side bombs are hidden under the piles of rubbish.
A fire at Jamil wholesale market closed shops and made access to fresh food difficult and expensive.
Over one third of children are not attending school. An unspecified number of education offices and youth centers are closed due to the occupation of premises by MNF-I forces, according to UNICEF.
During operations, 450 people have been arrested and detained, according to Baghdad Local Council and the Sadr City Council.
Humanitarian response in Sadr City
The UN is in communication with MNF-I and the government to highlight the need for protection of civilians and facilitate access to essential services and markets.
Preparations are under way for assistance to IDP camps that were established by the MoDM.
Access to safe water
Government authorities are now repairing water networks in areas where access permits. UNICEF will continue providing water tankering, where access is possible. An international NGO distributed 1,330 water jerry cans and 405 water thermos, as of 3 May. At least 100,000 liters of safe water were provided to 3,000 IDP families by an Iraqi NGO on 4 May. The International Medical Corps supplied 90,000 liters of water to Al Sadr hospital, Imam Ali hospital, Hay Tariq and Hay Al Kafaat areas on 6 May. In the longer-term, UNHABITAT in partnership with NGOs, plans to rehabilitate water networks.
Access to education
UNICEF, with NGO partners, is supporting educational authorities in reopening schools, their rehabilitation and the distribution of scarce school materials to areas where the situation is calm. NGOs plan to rehabilitate schools, provide tents to temporarily house classes distribute school kits and support psycho-social and recreational activities.
LIFE has provided drugs and medical supplies to Imam Ali General Hospital and Premiere Urgence provided medical supplies to Imam Ali General Hospital and to Sadr General Hospital.
The Ministry of Trade has resumed the distribution of Public Distribution System (PDS) food rations and started distributing supplementary PDS food rations to all Sadr City to cope with the emergency. Distributions of WFP food are complete. In total 296mt of wheat flour were distributed to 5,920 families (38,500 people, including 23,000 women)..IOM plans to deliver food and NFIs to 211 families. An international NGO is providing food parcels to 1149 families in Sectors 1-9.
Access to shelter
The Government of Iraq is preparing for three transit camps to provide shelter to up to 5,000 people each and a fourth for 90,000 persons, according to government sources from 8 May. Currently, there are 49 families residing in two out of the three camps, according to IOM, 14 May.
This type of emergency assistance cannot meet the vast needs of Sadr City's population. Government services and more importantly, access to normal commercial operations is essential, requiring a cessation or pause in the fighting.
Hostilities within densely populated urban areas will inevitably lead to civilian deaths and injuries as has already been the case. Those involved in the conflict need to respect the principles of distinction and proportionality, in accordance with international law while recognising the difficulties in distinguishing between civilians and militias dressed in civilian clothes.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.