Geneva – Dozens of complaints from Iraqi IDPs, documented by Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, cite failing health due to poor care, malnutrition, and deplorable living conditions in official and unofficial displacement camps.
More than 1.2 million displaced Iraqis are still living in camps, with approximately 665,000 of them residing in Kurdistan, as a result of unjustified government negligence with regard to health care. This negligence is unjustifiable and has compounded their suffering, causing the deterioration of many patients’ health; particularly affected are those with chronic diseases. Most IDP camps lack basic medical supplies, especially essential medicines and specialised medical laboratories, forcing IDPs to seek treatment outside of camps and face financial burdens that most are unable to bear.
Euro-Med Monitor emphasised that the Iraqi government’s continued failure to provide IDPs with adequate health care over the years clearly reflects negligence, as successive governments have not fulfilled their constitutional and moral obligations to this vulnerable group, which is consistently denied attention commensurate with the tragedy of being forcibly displaced.
According to testimonials obtained by the Euro-Med Monitor team from IDPs in several camps, most of them in Kurdistan, the majority of IDPs have difficulty acquiring medicines appropriate for their specific medical conditions. “I suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes,” said H.M., a displaced person who has not received their required medications for over a year. “When I go to the camp’s health centre, they give me painkillers, if any are available, that are completely inappropriate for my condition. I’m always promised medicines, but these promises are rarely fulfilled.”
In some cases, IDPs do not receive any medicine at all, because camps’ health centres run out. “I have high blood pressure and have been without the necessary medications for more than five months," stated L.K., an elderly displaced woman.
Similarly, another displaced person called F.M., said, “I just got back from the health centre. I told them I have headaches and back pain, but they said there were no painkillers available, and that I will have to wait indefinitely for medication.” The health centres within the camps cannot be blamed for the lack of medicines, seeing as relevant government agencies are responsible for providing these centres with the necessary medicines, supplies, and equipment.
“We have a severe shortage of medicines and are constantly writing to the authorities to request that our large deficit be filled,” said N.A., an official in one of the IDP camps. “We are often forced to refer patients to government hospitals because no treatment is available in the camp, causing delays in their treatment.”
Most IDPs are unable to afford the financial costs of their treatment outside of the camps due to their inability to work, as they face significant difficulties in finding work because many of them lost their identification papers during their initial displacement from their homes. While some IDPs are successful in finding work, they are paid on a daily basis, with an income that does not exceed one US dollar per day in most cases.
It is likely that the ongoing shortage of medicines and adequate health care services in the camps will seriously exacerbate the spread of disease in the coming months. The summer season typically sees an increase in disease occurrence, particularly skin diseases caused by high temperatures and resulting complications. Furthermore, asthmatic patients can develop severe symptoms from inhaling hot and polluted air, and their conditions may deteriorate.
“Failure to provide adequate health care to IDPs violates one of their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution,” said Omar Alajlouni, a legal researcher at Euro-Med Monitor. He pointed to Article 31, which states, “Every citizen has the right to health care. The State shall maintain public health and provide the means of prevention and treatment by building different types of hospitals and health institutions.”
Iraqi authorities must provide adequate and appropriate medicines, medical supplies, and equipment to all official and unofficial IDP camps, as well as work to remove all barriers that prevent the displaced from receiving adequate health care. Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor urges the authorities to step up efforts to end the nearly eight-year-long tragedy of displacement, return the displaced to the places where the war first forced them to flee, and accelerate rehabilitation in a way that ensures a safe and decent life for IDPs and allows them to return to normalcy.