Background: The continuing conflict in Iraq has now created an estimated four million internally displaced persons (IDPs). The bulk of recently displaced persons are in Central Iraq, often in insecure and difficult situations.
Objective: To determine the health status and health needs of women and children, age 15 and under, among a sample of this IDP population in Kirkuk, Baghdad, and Karbala governorates.
Methods: Data were collected from the senior female in 1216 families which contained 3665 children living in 45 makeshift settlements.
Findings: The majority of IDPs were living in tents or religious centers. Repeated displacements were common. Kidnappings were reported by 5.2% of families, and 7.9% of families reported a death of a family member during or after displacement. Intentional violence accounted for 72.3% of deaths. Only a third of children in school at the time of displacement continued in school. On average, households had received assistance on 3.2 occasions since displacement, food being the most common form. Access to health services was difficult. Some form of transport was often required. Few women knew where to secure antenatal services and many did not know where childhood immunization services were available. During or after displacement 307 women had delivered or were currently pregnant. Complications of pregnancies were common, with a quarter reporting anemia, and 22.1% experiencing hemorrhage. Both communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were common in the women and children in the survey. Scabies, diarrhea and lice were common among children. Among women, hypertension accounted for 36.6% of NCDs and type 2 diabetes for 15.9%. Domestic violence directed against women was reported in 17.4% of families and against children in 26.6%
Interpretation: Women and children in IDP settlements of Central Iraq experience many vulnerabilities involving their health, education and their environment, in addition to living in physical danger. While some external assistance was received, much more is needed to meet the needs of a displaced population which is unlikely to return home soon.