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Iraq: Daily bulletin - 13 April 2003

13-04-2003 Operational Update

Latest reports from ICRC staff in Iraq

 BAGHDAD (12 April)

    

The security situation in the Iraqi capital is still volatile, with some areas safer than others. Extreme caution is required when moving around. Curfew has been imposed from dusk to dawn.

The widespread looting of public premises and especially of medical facilities and water supply systems is having an increasing impact on health care. The consequences of acts of vandalism are becoming more and more visible. There are few health professionals left in most hospitals visited so far. Key utilities (generators, AC units, medical equipment, etc.) and other medical or technical equipment that are so vital for these hospitals to resume work are lacking.

Yarmouk Hospital, on the outskirts of Al Mansour district, is typical of the critical situation facing hospitals in Baghdad: it was hit directly by shells during the conflict and the third floor is totally destroyed. A few surgeons spent the last days and nights of the war inside the building. Corpses were piled in the entrance hall before being buried in the hospital grounds. Courageous doctors and staff managed to salvage half of the equipment while looters were carrying off furniture. Although the staff present are clearly committed to saving their hospital and getting it back to work, this will be possible only when a minimum of security is guaranteed.

 Partial assessment of hospitals on 12 April  

 Al Yarmouk General Teaching Hospital: The hospital (1,200 beds) was closed after partial looting and could only work as a first-aid post. A rocket had hit the third floor and two of the three generators were damaged. The triage area and the emergency unit were out of order. Fuel stocks had been looted and ICRC water bags had been stolen. Fortunately water bladder tanks and fuel tanks installed or repaired by the ICRC were operational. The ICRC will do its utmost to help restart this hospital by carrying out engineering repairs and providing surgical equipment, anaesthetics and catheters, as well as hygiene material and equipment for the emergency unit. New stocks of ICRC water bags will also be provided in the next few days.

 Al Karama General Hospital: This 500-bed hospital had been protected from looting by the civilian population, though ambulances had been stolen. However, patients were deterred from coming by the prevailing insecurity. The hospital’s main need was for protection. It also lacked oxygen. While Al Karkh Hospital was being looted, a team from Al Karama Hospital went there to recover whatever was left and to keep it safe on their premises. This equipment will be sent back as soon as possible, once Al Karkh starts functioning again.

 Medical City complex: The ICRC emergency purification units that are so vital to provide the four-hospital complex with additional water had been vandalized. The ICRC contacted the US civil affairs administration, asking for protecting troops to be sent immediately. This prevented the whole compound from being ransacked.

 Alwiya Children’s Hospital: This 125-bed hospital, the main pediatric medical facility in Baghdad, had been pr otected from looting by the presence of armed medical staff living in the hospital. The wards were closed, but some 100 consultations per day were being performed for out-patients. The staff were defending the hospital with courage and conviction. They definitely need protection and additional personnel. Some paediatric drugs were lacking.

 Ibn Nafis Hospital:  This was one of the few hospitals still functioning in the Iraqi capital. The existing team had been increased in number by several surgeons from looted hospitals. Fifty operations had been performed during the past three days. Since Friday, 11 April, US forces had been protecting the hospital, which has become a key facility. Non-medical services, such as cleaning, were very poor.

 Al Numan Hospital:  This hospital was intact and had been very well protected by the civilian population. The surgical staff are still on the site. However, the prevailing insecurity made access very difficult for patients.

 Abduker Military Hospital: The hospital was closed. All furniture and fittings had been looted on Friday.

 Al Rashad & Ibn Rushad Psychiatric Hospitals: Medical stores had been looted. Doctors were returning to the hospital, but no treatment was available for patients. The ICRC will do its utmost to provide the necessary drugs once a detailed list has been drawn up.

 Ibn Al Haythem Eye Hospital: This hospital had been closed on Friday after being looted.

 Water supply  

Acts of vandalism had targe ted some key water stations. There were hardly any tools or machines left in the warehouses of the Baghdad Water Authorities (BWA).

The emergency response is centred on restoring the water supply from damaged plants and trying to recover the stolen water tankers and bladder tanks to get urgently needed water to North Rasafa and Saddam City. The next priority in the days to come will be to assess the working condition of sewage treatment plants and pumping stations and resume water trucking to residential suburbs, which were already relying on water tankers before the hostilities.

The tap water supply was still disrupted since the missile attack on Qanat pumping station, which normally provides water for all northern Rasafa. Several steps were taken on Saturday, 12 April, to compensate for shortages in those areas:

  • two water tankers with five bladder tanks were sent to supply emergency water to the Zafaraniyah area;

  • the tap water supply to some areas of Zafaraniyah was restored, thanks to the quick intervention of ICRC technicians and of engineers from the Al Wahda and Al Rasheed water treatment plants; 

  • a new compressor was supplied to Al Wahda water treatment plant, which is vital since it supplies the Medical City complex. The plant is now operating at 50% of its nominal capacity. 

  • the emergency purification units installed and operated by the ICRC to provide additional water in some areas of Rasafa were recovered after some parts had been looted;

  • eight other bladder tanks, damaged by bullets, were removed from Saddam City to prevent them from being looted.

The Al Karkh water treatment plant was still running with only one back-up generator. Access to the plant was still very hazardo us

During a general coordination meeting organized by the US Marines civil affairs administration officials, the ICRC brought up a number of important issues: a list of main water stations which urgently need to be protected, a request for details of the schedule for the delivery of fuel by US tankers, a proposal for support for the 24 main sewage stations and 2 sewage treatment plants, and protection for the municipal fuel depot at Dora.

 Power  

With the continuing power supply problem, constant difficulties are cropping up in running key utilities such as hospitals, operating theatres, water treatment plants and sewage pumping stations. There is an urgent need to supply fuel and repair or service back-up generators.

 NASIRYAH (12 April)

    

An ICRC team went to Nasiryah to assess the humanitarian situation and needs. The situation in the former Saddam hospital was found less alarming than feared.

In the next few days an ICRC team will carry out repair work at pumping stations.

A more comprehensive survey (health and nutrition, as well as the general situation in other hospitals) is planned shortly.

 KIRKUK (12 April)

For the first time since the conflict began, an ICRC team from Erbil was able to enter Kirkuk in order to assess the situation there. A complete news blackout was kept on conditions in Kirkuk and Mosul during the hostilities.

Many armed looters were spotted around the town. Most shops were closed and the big main market was empty. All government buil dings had been looted or burnt, as well as industrial facilities. Electricity and water supplies had not yet been restored.

The 450-bed City Hospital (former Saddam Hospital) on the outskirts of the city was mostly undamaged. Only a few items had been stolen. Many of the staff (140 out of 240) had left the hospital, which was receiving an average of 40 patients per day. Water, fuel and power from back-up generators were available for emergency needs.

The Al-Tamin General Hospital (former Jamhuri Hospital) 250-bed hospital inside the town, with 250 beds, was serving as the first-line hospital for war-related casualties. It remained operational during the last few days of fighting in Kirkuk and was only partially looted and damaged on Friday, 11 April. Water and electricity were available, thanks to a generator. Medical supplies were sufficient to meet the most urgent needs. Shortages of iodine, painkillers, entubation equipment and local anaesthetics were reported.

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