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Iraq: Daily bulletin - 27 March 2003

27-03-2003 Operational Update

27 March 2003 - Field reports from Baghdad, Basra and Erbil, northern Iraq

 Baghdad – 26 March  

    

 Medical activities:  

  • The ICRC doctor and his assistant visited four hospitals treating war-wounded patients (Baghdad has 33 hospitals in total but the ICRC focuses primarily on facilities receiving war wounded patients). Three of these hospitals reported 60 wounded and 15 deaths following the bombardments of the night from 25 to 26 March and the morning of 26 March. These figures cannot be independently confirmed. The ICRC provided one hospital with 200 blankets and another with a first-aid kit. Further assistance is planned for today, 27 March, in the form of surgical and medical materials such as dressing kits and anaesthetic drugs.

    

 Water:  

  • The ICRC water and habitat team finished installing bladder tanks with a capacity of 20 cubic metres (or 20,000 litres) each, one at each of three hospitals and three health centres, again focusing primarily on facilities dealing with war wounded and medical emergencies. They also supplied a back-up generator for the operating theatre of the radiology hospital. The ICRC continued to operate two water purification units supplying two hospitals to cover for any temporary breakdowns in the water supply.

  • More than 12,000 one-litre bags of drinking water were supplied to three different hospitals to be used in case of a breakdown of the water supply.

  • The ICRC continued to transport supplementary drinking water to parts of Baghdad poorly served by the water distribution network. 175 cubic metres were delivered to 11 ICRC water distribution points in the northern Rusafa bank area.

  • Urgent maintenance work was carried out on a number of water treatment plants, including Al Khark which supplies 65% of the drinking water for the city's 5.2 million inhabitants. The ICRC met officials from the Baghdad Water Authority to discuss emergency measures in the event that the hostilities move closer to the capital.

 Basra – 26 March  

    

 Water:  

  • Here is some additional information on the Wafa'Al-Qaed water pumping station north of the city that was mentioned in the ICRC's press release no. 03/21 of 26 March: This station not only serves Basra but also surrounding towns. Despite the progress made yesterday, the situation remains precarious since all water treatment plants and pumping stations now rely on back-up generators. These generators only provide a fraction of the normal power available to the water facilities, and their operation and maintenance require continuous supervision, not to mention the difficulties of obtaining fuel and spare parts.

  • ICRC staff expressed concern about the water situation in urban centres south of Basra such as Al-Zubayr and Safwan, which have also been disconnected from the water network since last Friday. The ICRC is in contact with the local water authorities to discuss how best to improve the situation in order to avoid a major health emergency.

  • There have been reports and statements that the water in Basra is unfit for consumption. To the best of the ICRC's knowledge, the water is salty but treated; apart from its taste, the bacteriological quality of this water is comparable to that existing before the supply was disrupted, and is also comparable to the quality of water currently produced in many other parts of the country.

 Erbil, northern Iraq – 26 March  

    

 General situation:  

  • Prices of fresh produce on local markets remain high; kerosene prices are also fairly high and there appears to be a shortage of fuel in Dohuk. No significant movements of population have been observed today. However, authorities report that about 2,000 families have fled areas near Halabja and Khurmal into Sayed Sadeq and Qaladiza.

 The displaced:  

  • The ICRC continues to monitor closely the situation of internally displaced people, who fall into two distinct categories. On the one hand, many Kurdish families have left urban centres to seek shelter with relatives or in previously organized accommodation. This group is likely to return to urban centres as soon as the security situation improves. The second category is more vulnerable and includes many people who have fled government-controlled areas of Iraq; they are receiving less assistance and support from the local population. The local authorities are registering displaced people falling into both categories and housing those without family in schools, mosques and vacant buildings.

  • A few of the displaced have been returning to urban areas to escape harsh weather conditions in the mountains.