Increased violence in early August threw two villages in Northern Iraq into chaos. On August 7th a car bomb exploded outside a mosque in Shrekhan Sufla leaving 45 dead and 217 injured. Three days later another bomb exploded in Khazna Tabtah, killing 34 and injuring 179. The impact on the people in Ninewa Governorate was sweeping. Many were displaced from destroyed homes and forced to rebuild their lives in the wake of this most recent violence. The death toll is expected to rise as the rubble is cleared.
The violence in Ninewa is targeted at the minority Kurdish community. Property disputes and forced displacements dating back to the Saddam era fuel the ethnic tension.
International Medical Corps, supported by the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), launched a coordinated response with the International Committee for the Red Cross, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, local leaders and other non-governmental organizations.
“In the six years International Medical Corps has worked in Iraq we have created a seamless process to assess the situation and fill gaps where our expertise and experience will be most useful.” said Carrie Hasselback, director of the humanitarian assistance program for International Medical Corps in Iraq.
While other organizations focused on shelter and paramedic care International Medical Corps engineered a quick response to water and hygiene needs for residents.
“Without access to clean water and basic hygiene the tens of thousands of people in these villages would be at risk for a number of serious waterborne diseases,” Hasselback continued. “These communicable diseases, such as cholera, are leading cause of death among children in Iraq. To stop a disaster from becoming an epidemic we’re focusing on immediate health needs in both communities.”
During the explosions in Shrekhan Sufla the main water lines to the villages were destroyed, cutting off access to clean, potable water. Within days of the explosion International Medical Corps sent 100 water tanks and 100 hygiene kits to the area. Mobile teams followed up this response in Khazna, where the second explosion occurred; sending 120 water tanks and 120 hygiene kits to that area.
In Northern Iraq International Medical Corps’ programs go beyond emergency assistance, sponsoring conflict mitigation workshops to train leaders to promote tolerance and spearheading community projects, like a sports stadium, to bring together diverse groups. Although the process is slow – the impact on security, in the long term, is profound. This new initiative is beginning to take hold in communities across Northern Iraq. Programs like these are a critical component to achieving a sustainable, secure, and democratic Iraq in the future.