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Increased aid for victims of violence in Iraq

29-04-2004 Interview

The recent upsurge in violence in Iraq has increased the need for urgent humanitarian action. From Baghdad, ICRC spokesperson Nada Doumani explains how the organization has responded.

   

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    Nada Doumani  

 
 1.What kind of assistance has been delivered to the victims of the violent clashes in April?  
 
Throughout the month of April the ICRC has been providing emergency relief assistance to the main hospitals in various cities in Iraq due to the escalating level of violence. We started in Fallujah on 7 April when we were the first international humanitarian organization to deliver medical supplies and surgical equipment to the besieged city and later on we provided also the city with anaesthetic drugs. We came with a convoy of the Iraqi Red Crescent on 8 April, also to Fallujah. Following that, there have been many other areas in Iraq unfo rtunately which have witnessed alot of violence, so we also delivered medical supplies to Najah, to Nassaria, to Basra on 21 April following the attacks on various police stations. Recently also the ICRC has provided support to the camp that has been established by the Iraqi Red Crescent Society in the city of Baghdad to host people displaced from Fallujah. Apart from that, the ICRC is continuing its support in terms of delivery of water to various areas in Iraq, notably to Sader City in Baghdad and to some poor neighbourhoods in Basra.
 
 2.Under the circumstances, has it been possible to visit detainees registered since the beginning of the conflict?  
 
In parallel to these assistance activities which come in fact as a response to an emergency in Iraq, the ICRC is continuing its visits to detainees all over the country. Detainees who are held under the coalition authorities, be it prisoners of war, security detainees, civilian detainees or even common-law detainees. As usual, the aim of this visit is to monitor the conditions of detention, make sure that the treatment of detainees is in accordance with international humanitarian law and in the framework of these visits, we visited recently, for the second time, the former President Saddam Hussein. He is a prisoner of war and is entitled to ICRC visits like any other prisoner of war. Just as a reminder, last year the ICRC has registered and visited 10,141 detainees and we have allowed for the exchange of 16,500 Red Cross messages, meaning messages between detainees and their relatives.
 
 3.How does the growing insecurity affect the activities of the ICRC?  
 
Definitely the deteriorating security situation in Iraq is making our work more difficult, notably in terms of movement, when we have to go from Baghdad to Fallujah, we have to make sure that th e road is more or less safe, that we can get into the city. This requires coordination, mainly with the coalition forces and if possible we try to put the message through to the combatants too. But I would like to stress also that the security situation is dangerous for everybody now in Iraq, not only for foreigners, not only for international humanitarian organizations. We have seen that the media has focused a lot recently on the issue of abduction of foreigners, but we have to be aware that Iraqis are suffering from the phenomenon, very serious phenomenon, of abductions. For months people are being kidnapped for money. Iraqis themselves already feel threatened today in their home country. It is obvious that during these fights and these clashes unfortunately civilians are also paying the price of this violence. Nevertheless, the ICRC is committed to pursue its mandate, which is precisely to assist victims of violence. That is why we believe that our work is more important than ever during this difficult period in Iraq.