Iraq: Daily bulletin – 29 March 2003
29-03-2003 Operational Update
Latest reports from ICRC staff in the field in Baghdad and Arbil, northern Iraq
BAGHDAD (28 March 2003)
Many telephone landlines, including those of the ICRC delegation, were no longer functioning following overnight attacks. This made it impossible for many Baghdad residents to find out how their family and friends were faring after another night of heavy bombardments.
The ICRC tried to give most of its core staff a well-deserved day of rest following eight days of intense activity. The workload was thus reduced as much as possible.
Contacts with the authorities
Regular contacts continued with the Iraqi authorities on a range of subjects, including the issue of prisoners of war. As yet, no date has been fixed for ICRC visits to POWs to begin.
The ICRC doctor visited the Al-Nur general hospital, which will be provided with two stretchers, two trolleys and two emergency sets.
The doctor also visited one of the 25 first-aid posts set up around the city by the Iraq Red Crescent Society. The post is staffed 24 hours a day by two Red Crescent volunteers and one medical assistant from the Ministry of Health. It provides first aid and wound dressings, and evacuates urgent cases to the nearest referral hospital using a Ministr y of Health ambulance or a volunteer's private car.
Telephone contact with the ICRC delegation in Basra was not possible.
Arbil, northern Iraq (27 March)
The situation concerning population displacements appeared to be relatively stable. There had been no significant movements of people from urban centres to rural areas over recent days. The ICRC is monitoring the situation closely, visiting different villages and towns across the Kurdish-controlled area of Iraq to evaluate the needs of displaced persons. Delegates also regularly consult other humanitarian organizations and local authorities.
Visits to detainees
The ICRC visited about 30 detainees held by Kurdish local authorities in Arbil governorate.
JORDANPeople leaving Iraq and arriving at the Al Ruweishid camp managed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Jordanian Red Crescent are able to use ICRC satellite phones to contact their families. By 26 March, 428 third-country nationals had made 530 calls to their relatives. The ICRC has also set up a website in English and Arabic to help people find out the whereabouts of their relatives. http://www.familylinks.icrc.org/home.nsf/home/webfamilylinks
The ICRC is finalizing the setting-up of a centralized tracing agency unit in Geneva, which will be responsible for processing and recording all personal data concerning protected people (including prisoners of war, civilian internees and military personnel reported “missing in action”). The unit is expected to be fully operational on 31 March. It will handle enquiries from National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as well as personal data transmitted by the parties to the conflict.