In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, head of the Fallujah Teaching Hospital’s patient support department Dr. Abdul Hadi Aswad said: “Things are getting worse. There is a large shortage of medicine and medical supplies. This shortage is threatening a real medical and humanitarian disaster in the city.”
“Nobody is paying attention to our repeated calls for the government to resolve this issue and immediately send medical relief teams to Fallujah and other besieged Anbar cities. The death toll is rising steadily, and we are unable to treat most of the cases that we now see due to a lack of medicine,” he added.
Large portions of Iraq’s western Anbar province, the country’s largest governorate, remain under ISIS control, including parts of the provincial capital Ramadi and the city of Fallujah.
ISIS first entered Anbar from Syria in June earlier this year, taking control of large parts of the region with the assistance of local Sunni tribes, which rebelled against the government for what they perceived to be sectarian policies adopted by former Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. Although ISIS has largely lost the support of the local Sunni majority, its fighters remain in control of large areas of the province with government forces and the US-led anti-ISIS coalition focusing their military efforts on other parts of the country.
Asharq Al-Awsat spoke with a number of Anbar residents about the lack of medical facilities in the province. Ramadi resident Ahmed, aged 32, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that he was unable to find formal medical care for his pregnant wife. “We had to take my pregnant wife to an old village woman to oversee the birth because we could not leave [Anbar] for a safe region to find a real hospital.”
He said that the birth occurred without any trained medical assistance or medicine. “After the birth my wife suffered medical compilations which she is still suffering from today. We are trying to leave and get out of this painful situation,” he said.
While Bilal, aged 22, also from Ramadi, said: “We lost my father who suffered from chronic illnesses due to a lack of medicine. We couldn’t do anything. The health centers are closed, and the majority of doctors have fled the city.”
“It would have been possible to save my father if the armed fighters would let us leave, or if we had been rescued by government forces,” he said.
Um Abdullah, aged 44, revealed that a number of Anbar children are suffering from serious illnesses is increasing. “My children are sick, part of a widespread epidemic that has affected most of the children of the region. Even after I received a diagnosis I could not get the right medicine for a week because the price was too high,” she said.
Dr. Mohamed Said, head of the Red Crescent in Anbar, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There are many besieged districts and cities in Anbar that we have not been able to deliver food or medicine to. They are suffering an epidemic outbreak due to a total lack of basic services and complete power and water outages resulting in a lack of drinking water and heat.”
“It is very difficult to reach these areas, we either need a ceasefire or for both sides of the conflict to grant us permission to enter,” he added.
Anbar Governor Suhaib Al-Rawi stressed that Iraq’s authorities are doing everything that they can to assist the people of Anbar. “There are concrete steps being taken on the ground to liberate the areas under ISIS control, particularly the urban areas.”
“Yes, there are some regions where diseases and epidemics have broken out due to a lack of basic services because these areas are under the control of armed militants, but we are working to liberate them and rescue the besieged people,” he toldAsharq Al-Awsat.