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Iraq bulletin - 17 April 2003

17-04-2003 Operational Update

Latest reports from ICRC staff in Baghdad and Arbil. Security must continue to improve in order to ease the desperate humanitarian situation. Dire conditions in Al-Rashad psychiatric hospital.

 BAGHDAD (17 April)

    

 General situation  

    

As a certain degree of calm returns to the city centre, security remains volatile, with occasional bursts of machine-gun fire still being heard. Wealthy suburban areas are still prone to looting while poorer areas have seen clashes between different groups. The ICRC in Baghdad repeats that stepping up security is vital to improving the humanitarian situation in the city and must continue. In particular key installations such as hospitals and waterworks must be effectively protected against acts of looting and vandalism.

 Water  

ICRC engineers working with local technicians have successfully re-established the water supply   for the Al-Sadr area of Baghdad (formerly Saddam City), reaching an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 inhabitants. This was made possible by emergency repairs to the Qanat raw-water-pumping station, damaged during the hostilities.

 BAGHDAD (15 and 16 April)

 Dire situation in hospitals  

ICRC staf f visited the Al-Rashad psychiatric hospital in the east of Baghdad, where the situation was found to be very bad. Following the last visit by ICRC staff on 8 April, violent fighting took place between US and Iraqi forces near the hospital. Between 9 and 11 April waves of looters descended on the facility, burning everything that was not stolen. The hospital director reported that some patients had been raped. On 10 April, the 1,050 patients fled the hospital – only 300 patients have so far returned but their living conditions are dire. The hospital lacks sufficient drinking water; it has no water for washing or cleaning, meaning it is extremely dirty; and only very limited food is available for patients. It also needs to be completely renovated since warehouses, offices, wards, residences, kitchens, workshops and laundries have all been destroyed. As a first measure, the ICRC provided nearly 30,000 litres of water for cleaning and drinking as well as food and fuel and oil for the generator.

The ICRC provided a surgical kit for the treatment of 100 war-wounded, anaesthetics and other materials to the Shaheed Adnan hospital, the main surgical structure in the Medical City hospital complex. Seven other hospitals were provided, according to their respective needs, with supplementary drinking water, oxygen bottles, fuel, and maintenance and repair services for key installations such as generators.

 Water  

    

The ICRC operated water-tanker trucks to bring potable water to different parts of Baghdad not connected to the mains, including the Al-Obedia area, the Zafaraniya area and the Al-Rashad area. In many areas, the water was used to fill public tanks previously installed by the ICRC.

In addition to the work at Qanat raw-water-pumping station (see above), the ICRC conti nued the repair and servicing of the generators at the Saba Nissan water-treatment plant, repaired a major leak in a water pipe near the plant damaged during the hostilities, continued urgent maintenance work at North and South Kharh booster stations, and connected a generator at the Al-Wathba water-treatment plant.

 Facilitating contacts as a neutral intermediary  

    

The ICRC continues to provide a forum, upon request, for meetings between the US forces and representatives of former Iraqi technical authorities to discuss urgent measures to restore basic services such as water, electricity, irrigation and refuse collection. It should be recalled that, according to the fourth Geneva Convention, the occupying power has to do everything possible to ensure that these services are provided to the population.

 Red Cross message service  

    

The ICRC in Baghdad has received and transmitted to Geneva more than 800 messages from Iraqi residents eager to inform their relatives abroad that they are safe. These messages are then forwarded to the respective National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which inform the families.

A former POW   of the Iraq-Iran war, who had been interned for 21 years and was only released days before the outbreak of the latest conflict, visited the ICRC office in Baghdad, where he was able to call his wife and family in the Netherlands to tell them he was alive and well. The delegation described this as " one of the best moments we have had in a long time " .

Are you looking for a member of your famil y? Go to http://www.familylinks.icrc.org on this website.

 ARBIL (17 April)

An ICRC team has visited Mosul for a partial evaluation of the medical situation. They describe the city as tense following recent demonstrations. Today the ICRC plans to deliver one war-wounded kit for 100 patients as well as other surgical materials to local hospitals. Yesterday ICRC delegates made it possible for about 30 families in Mosul to contact their relatives abroad by making a brief satellite phone call.