Peter Maurer (pictured), the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), arrived in Iraq on Monday on his first official visit.
Over the next four days in Baghdad, Najaf and Erbil he will meet senior Iraqi officials, religious leaders and the leadership of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society and other humanitarian organizations to discuss growing humanitarian needs resulting from the escalation of violence in parts of the country.
Mr Maurer will also meet displaced Iraqis and see, first hand, projects aiming to help people in the violence-prone area of North Babel earn a living and improve their access to water.
"Ordinary Iraqis, particularly in remote areas of the country, are having to cope both with the consequences of past conflict and with outbreaks of violence still occurring, such as those that recently took place in Anbar province," said the ICRC president. "We urge everyone involved in fighting to spare civilians and allow humanitarian and medical personnel to carry out their duties in safety."
Since the outbreak of the most recent crisis in Al Anbar, the ICRC has assisted more than 52,000 displaced people in dire need. "Working closely with tribal leaders, religious figures and other local leaders enabled us to take swift action to help those in need," said Mr Maurer.
Among its many activities in Iraq, the ICRC helps farmers in violence-prone areas boost production, supports primary health-care and physical rehabilitation centres with training and services, provides people with safe drinking water, and gives grants to women heading households and to disabled people so they can start small businesses, generate income and live in greater dignity.
The ICRC also visits thousands of detainees in Iraq to monitor treatment, conditions of detention, access to health care, contact between detainees and their families and respect for basic legal safeguards.