BAGHDAD, 11 July 2007 (IRIN) - Urgent relocation is needed for 185 displaced families stranded in the harsh conditions of a desert camp in southern Iraq, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) says.
"Three infants aged 1-3 have died due to soaring temperatures in the al-Manathira internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, about 20km south of Najaf, where 185 displaced families, or about 1,100 individuals, are living in about 200 tents," said Dhia Zuwaini, head of the IRCS’s Najaf branch. Zuwaini said these families were part of an estimated 5,500 displaced families in the Najaf area, about 200km south of Baghdad.
He said the IRCS, the only humanitarian relief agency on the ground nationwide, had distributed drinking water, food, mobile toilets and other items. "But this is not enough as they face death because the tents do not protect them from high temperatures of over 50 degrees centigrade in July and August." Some family members were developing waterborne diseases, asthma, skin irritations, malnutrition and typhoid, he said."We call on the government and international humanitarian bodies to help as much as they can to relocate these families to a safe area where we can protect them from these conditions," Zuwaini said.
Five months ago, Khalil Abdul-Zahra, a 40-year-old construction worker, fled sectarian violence in Yousifiyah, a Sunni-dominated area about 20km south of Baghdad. Now he is fighting snakes, sand storms and high temperatures in the al-Manathira desert. "This place is not suitable even for animals," Abdul-Zahra, a Shia father of five boys, told IRIN in a phone interview. "We have not washed for the past 15 days, snakes are everywhere and sand storms are an almost daily occurrence," he added. “I can’t afford to move to another place and rent a property because as a construction worker I only get irregular work. My boys are malnourished and my wife has a skin irritation." "The distributed drinking water can't last for three days and no one or gas with which to boil water."
According to the IRCS, 142,260 families - about 1,037,615 individuals - have become IDPs since 22 February 2006, when a revered Shia shrine in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, was bombed by what many believe was a Sunni extremist group. Sectarian violence has increased sharply since then.