Paris: Medical charity MSF appealed to warring factions in Iraq on Wednesday to spare medical staff and facilities after one of its clinics was badly damaged in an offensive by Islamist militants.
The clinic in the northern city of Tikrit, which has been overrun by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), was damaged in a June 13 offensive, Olivier Maizoue, deputy head of MSF operations in Iraq, told AFP.
"Since the start of the year... there have been huge waves of displacements all over the country," he said.
"We chose to intervene in Tikrit, where there was a great influx of displaced people, and build a health centre there which was due to open this week."
The clinic set up by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) was expected to serve up to 40,000 people.
"The prefab structures were destroyed and there was some theft," Maizoue said. "We do not know yet if we can return to work in Tikrit but our priority is to be able to treat the displaced."
Fighters from ISIL have overrun a succession of major towns and cities in the north of Iraq and are closing in on Baghdad.
On Friday, tweets attributed to ISIL claimed the militants had killed 1,700 Iraqi Shiite soldiers as they advanced towards the capital.
The crisis, which has displaced hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, threatens to carve up the country.
"Several hundred thousands of people have fled Mosul and the Anbar governorate and are now faced with very difficult conditions," MSF`s head of mission in Iraq, Fabio Forgione, said in a statement.
"They are staying in schools, mosques, unfinished buildings or with relatives, and urgently need water, shelter, food and emergency health care.
"However, providing the most basic assistance and medical care is extremely challenging in such an environment where the medical activities themselves are under attack."