Life in Baghdad

Iraqis on the move: Sectarian displacement in Baghdad: An assessment conducted by International Medical Corps

January 29, 2007, Santa Monica, Calif. — Over one million residents of Baghdad could be driven from their homes in the next six months if Iraq’s sectarian violence continues at its current level, according to an in-depth assessment conducted by the Santa Monica-based humanitarian assistance group, International Medical Corps.

The study finds that residents of the Iraq capital account for about 80% of the 546,078 Iraqis civilians who have already fled their homes because of the sectarian fighting in the 11 months since the Feb. 2006 bombing of the Holy Shrine in Samara. The pace of those fleeing is accelerating at a dramatic rate. Since November alone, the number of those displaced has jumped by 43%.

The humanitarian situation is deteriorating at an increasingly rapid rate and there are few indicators of any change in this trend in the short term. While often over-used, the words “humanitarian crisis” accurately describe conditions now unfolding inside Iraq. Long-term displacement seriously reduces the ability of many Iraqis to sustain their livelihood, while the disruption to the lives of IDPs and restricted movements caused by sectarian fighting deny particularly women, children, and minorities of access to basic healthcare services.

“It is a brewing humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions that is being overshadowed by the fighting itself and the debate surrounding the war,” said Nancy Aossey, IMC’s President and CEO. “It must be acknowledged and addressed.”

The population movement constitutes a large-scale reshaping of the city’s neighborhoods along sectarian lines. Some of the displaced have sought refuge with family or friends in “sectarian friendly” neighborhoods within the capital, while others have fled the capital altogether to outlying governorates.

Unlike the temporary displacement of civilians that occurred prior to Feb. 2006—displacements often caused by military operations such as those conducted in 2004-5 in and around Falluja and Tal Afar—the movements we are tracking appear to be more permanent. The sale or abandonment of real property is one piece of evidence that suggests this permanence.

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