For more than 3 years, the people of Hawiija [Hawijah] district in Kirkuk governorate, were cut off from lifesaving health care and immunization services, leaving many children susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases. “For years, I worried that my children may contract polio and measles or die,” said Hadija, a 32-year-old mother of 3.

In September 2017, the district became accessible following military operations launched by the Government of Iraq. WHO, together with Kirkuk Directorate of Health, immediately deployed mobile medical teams to provide immunization services, and health care for people suffering from trauma injuries or chronic disease conditions.

Five mobile medical teams were deployed to Khan, Tal Ali, Abbassi, Masanaa, Al Zab and Ryadh areas. Since then, from mid-September to 15 November 2017, more than 10000 people in Hawiija district have benefited from WHO’s support, including 1563 children vaccinated against childhood immunizable diseases.

Although these newly accessible areas are still security compromised, WHO saw an urgency in delivering health care to thousands of people that had been cut off from aid for years, and whose health was being compromised day by day. Five main health facilities have been partially or completely damaged, in addition to Hawija general hospital. Currently, only the Kirkuk Directorate of Health and WHO-supported frontline health teams are delivering immunization services in these areas.

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says his military has retaken Hawija from ISIL.

It is the main town in one of the last two Iraqi enclaves still partly held by ISIL fighters, and the last one in the country’s north.

But it has come with a cost for many Iraqi civilians caught in the crossfire.

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford reports from a checkpoint near Hawija:

On October 4, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) media outlet claimed that Iraqi forces had fully recaptured the town of Hawija; hours after the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) said it launched a fresh offensive targeting its centre.

The PMU claimed that the decisive victory came as part of a second stage of operations launched on September 29 to liberate the town and surrounding areas from IS militants, who have been in control of the area since 2014.

The JOC has not officially confirmed the liberation of Hawija town, but if confirmed, it would mean that only western the Anbar’s towns of Rawa and al-Qaim remain under the militant’s control.

The Iraqi army’s War Media Cell did however reported that its forces had regained full control over Makhoul Mountains in Hawija, the area of Al-Harareyat and the western bank of Al-Fatha Bridge. 

PMU media also reported that its forces had liberated three villages west of Riyadh on October 4.  According to a statement, PMU forces liberated the villages of Yassin Taha village west of Hawija district and Aliah and Khalaf Asuad villages, west of Riyadh district.

Separately, Iraqi airstrikes were reported to have targeted an IS headquarters in Rawa in Anbar province, killing a top IS leader Bakr Wagdi al-Rawi, according to unnamed ‘security sources’.

(Source: GardaWorld)

(Picture: US Army near Mosul, March 2017)

Military operations to retake Hawija district and surrounding areas, which began on 21 September, have to date displaced more than 2,400 individuals from Hawija, Kirkuk governorate and Shirqat, Salah al-Din governorate. The majority displaced to Ninewa governorate, including 1,700 individuals bussed by Iraqi authorities to IOM’s Haj Ali emergency site 60 km south of Mosul.

Most of these recently displaced people arrived to a secure area after fleeing their towns and villages, many walking five to 10 hours through desert lands, leaving them dehydrated and exhausted.

The majority of IDPs arriving at Haj Ali are children, women and older people. As the military operations continue, thousands of additional families are expected to be displaced and in need of assistance.

Upon arrival, families are assigned a tent and given two kits: a Rapid Response Mechanism kit (food, water and a hygiene kit) from a local NGO; and an NFI kit from IOM, including mattresses, bedding, kitchen set, fan, light, plastic mats, gas cooker, and more. An IOM doctor is present at registration to identify urgent health needs.

Amal, 24, from Tal al-Wared village in Hawija district, along with a group of family members, arrived in Haj Ali site on Friday, September 22. While visiting IOM’s health center for medical checkups, she said “Life in Hawija was very difficult, there were shortages of food and basic supplies. I am very concerned about my 16 relatives who were not able to depart with us. We are still waiting to hear from them.”

Dr. Ahmed Basheer of IOM at Haj Ali site was among a group of first responders to provide emergency medical care for newly displaced people.

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

NIQASH visited Hawija, a large northern Iraqi town near Kirkuk, which is currently controlled by Sunni Muslim extremists and local tribes. The town is dominated by ISIS’ black flags and ISIS’ rules. And on the way into town, everybody gets a free Koran.

The area south of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk is now controlled by Sunni Muslim extremist fighters – and part of this includes Hawija, a large, mostly Sunni Muslim town. Although there have been clashes between the Sunni Muslim extremists and the Iraqi Kurdish military who control Kirkuk, the road between the two centres is still open.

It is only being used by a few cars: People returning to Kirkuk after visiting their relatives in Hawija or people from Hawija fleeing to Kirkuk, afraid of further problems in the area.

To get to Hawija you need to go through the Kiwan area, which is now known as the “death strip”. The two opposing forces, the Sunni Muslim extremists led by the group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and the Iraqi Kurdish military, known as the Peshmerga, are stationed on either side of the road. Both sides are on high alert. If anyone fires a bullet over the other side, fighting breaks out.

Hawija was taken over by Sunni Muslim extremists and members of local Sunni Muslim tribes around June 16 after the Iraqi army withdrew.

As you pass the last Peshmerga checkpoint, the soldiers there advise you not to go any further unless it is extremely important. People are being killed on this road and also being abducted by ISIS, they say.

“Be careful, they will ask you well prepared questions about why you’re going into this area and they will verify the information you give them,” one of the soldiers told me. “If you give them the wrong information, you will be in a lot of trouble.”

I had already taken his advice. I studied at the art school in Hawija for several years, I know a lot of people there and I thought it wouldn’t be difficult to enter the area if I carried my ID card from the art school.