BAGHDAD, (AP) – Nearly 2.3 million Iraqis — the vast majority of them women and children — have fled their homes but remain inside the country’s borders and are in urgent need of basic care, according to a report issued Monday by the Iraqi Red Crescent.
The number of internally displaced people, or IDPs, in Iraq grew by 16 percent in September — to 2,299,425, the Red Crescent said. That figure has skyrocketed since the beginning of 2007, when less than half a million people were listed as displaced.
More than 83 percent of those displaced are women and children under the age of 12, the report said.
Four and a half years after the U.S.-led invasion, the Iraqi government struggles to provide basic services — water, electricity and access to schools and medical care — to citizens across the country. Much of Iraq, especially the capital, is beset by violence, crumbling infrastructure and rampant crime, and most humanitarian groups are unable to reach victims who need help.
“In addition to their plight as being displaced, the majority suffer from disease, poverty and malnutrition,” the Red Crescent reported.
“Children do not attend schools and are being sheltered in tents, abandoned government buildings with no water or electricity, mosques, churches, or with relatives,” it said.
The report jibes with the Iraqi government’s announcement Saturday that more than 3,000 families driven out of their Baghdad neighborhoods have returned to their homes in the past three months because of a drop in sectarian violence.
As of Sept. 30, more than 60 percent of displaced Iraqis — nearly 1.5 million people — were in Baghdad. “It has the largest number of displaced people as a result of many explosions, military operations and armed conflicts,” the report said.
The Red Crescent report did not specify whether the number of displaced people in Baghdad had risen in fallen in the past three months.
The figures in Monday’s report were tabulated by Red Crescent coordinators and volunteers in all 18 Iraqi provinces. The group says it has 5,000 employees and 95,000 volunteers working at 365 offices around the country.
Meanwhile, violence continued Monday, but at lower levels — in line with a trend of reduced numbers of attacks in recent months.
A roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded four others in eastern Baghdad, police said. Another such bomb exploded near Suwayrah, 25 miles south of the capital, killing another civilian, officers said.
Later Monday, gunmen assassinated a member of the neighborhood council in Khadra, an area of western Baghdad, police said. Hamad Abdul-Latif was driving his car in the adjacent al-Jamia area when he was attacked, police said.
Approaching the year’s end — more than four months after the U.S. completed a 30,000-strong force buildup — the monthly death toll among Americans and Iraqis has fallen dramatically.
At least 1,023 Iraqi civilians died in September; in October, that figure was just 875. The number of U.S. troop deaths dropped from 65 to 36 in the same period, according to statistics kept by the AP. That’s the lowest monthly toll of American deaths this year.
On average, 56 Iraqis — civilians and security forces — have died each day so far in 2007.
But 2007 is on course to be the deadliest year on record for American troops in Iraq, despite the recent sharp drop in U.S. deaths.
At least 847 American military personnel have died in Iraq so far this year — the second-highest annual toll since the war began in March 2003, according to Associated Press figures.
If four more U.S. troops by the year’s end, this year will surpass 2004 as the bloodiest year of the war for the U.S.
Some 850 troops died in 2004, mostly in larger, more conventional battles like the campaign to cleanse Fallujah of Sunni militants in November, and U.S. clashes with Shiite militiamen in the sect’s holy city of Najaf in August.
But the American military in Iraq reached its highest troop levels in Iraq this year — 165,000. Moreover, the military’s decision to send soldiers out of large bases and into Iraqi communities means more troops have seen more “contact with enemy forces” than ever before, said Maj. Winfield Danielson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.
“It’s due to the troop surge, which allowed us to go into areas that were previously safe havens for insurgents,” Danielson said. “Having more soldiers, and having them out in the communities, certainly contributes to our casualties.”