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Iraq bulletin - 19 April 2003

19-04-2003 Operational Update

Latest reports from ICRC staff in Iraq. Urgent need for order and stability. Water and electricity situation improving but still critical. Hospitals providing essential services under difficult conditions. Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies round the world helping the ICRC restore family links.

 GENERAL  

Iraq is at a crucial stage, where decisions must be taken swiftly to re-establish and maintain safety and public order. Such measures will also help to reassure the population about their future. There is a pressing need for direction and organization, as although most civil servants are committed to resuming their work they remain unclear about their situation in the absence of guidance from a civil administration.

The ICRC views the following as top priorities:

  •  Protection by the Occupying Power (in areas under their control) of such vital facilities as water treatment plants, sewage installations, hospitals and health centres, to prevent further looting, destruction and sabotage. The need for protection continues once these facilities have been repaired and have started functioning again. Security and public order are essential if patients, staff and humanitarian workers are to have safe access to hospitals and health centres.

  • The restoration of essential services , especially electricity, water, sewage and health.
    As an example, restoring electricity in Baghdad would double the amount of running water available. Water is now available again everywhere in the city, but all installations are running on back-up generators. As a result, extra water has to be transported by road, especial ly to hospitals and health centres.

  • The restoration of stability to the country as a whole . Public administration and the management of vital structures and services are either absent or at best functioning ad hoc. Few businesses have resumed their activities, although a few shops and market stalls have re-opened. This situation is creating confusion, rivalries and tensions, reducing the efficiency of vital services and affecting the lives of people in general. Many are technically without employment and have received no salary for several weeks. The sense of insecurity and frustration is rising. As many put it, " We don't know where our next meal is coming from. "
     
    This aspect of the situation goes beyond the role and capacity of the ICRC. However, what the ICRC will continue to do – if asked by both sides – is to facilitate contacts between Iraqi public service personnel and the Coalition forces so they can discuss and plan.
     
    The ICRC will also continue to provide emergency health services and to help people re-establish contact with their next of kin.

    

 BAGHDAD  

At the request of both sides, the ICRC continues to act as a neutral intermediary, facilitating meetings between US forces and key public service representatives. The two parties have discussed plans for restoring basic health, water, sewage, electricity and refuse collection services in Baghdad. For example, the ICRC has established contact between Iraqi personnel responsible for electricity production and specialists on the US side. The US specialists have publicly declared that power will be re-established within the coming days. Apart from anything else, restoring electricity is expected to improve security, p ublic order and communications.

 Emergency health services  

Security must be established and maintained as a priority. Once the working environment is secure, the next task will be to repair facilities, set up essential installations and provide supplies. The ICRC continues to give priority to ensuring that those hospitals that are safe and functioning (i.e. where staff and patients are returning) have the means to look after the sick and wounded. This involves delivering medical, surgical and other supplies and ensuring that hospitals have electricity, plus sufficient water for consumption and hygiene.

Following an appeal by religious leaders in the mosques, people are returning stolen medicines and materials to hospitals throughout Baghdad. These returns have become the main source of supply to hospitals!

On 17 and 18 April, the medical coordinator visited the following hospitals:

 Shaheed Adnan Hospital – Medical City  

Iraqi police are protecting the hospital. The events of the last few days have seriously disrupted management and working procedures in this hospital and in many others around town. Three floors of the 16-floor hospital are in use at present and there are 80 in-patients (in a hospital with 650 beds).

 Al Karama General Hospital  

Following a request from the ICRC, US forces have been protecting the hospital since 18 April. There are 100 in-patients in this 480-bed hospital. The hospital was untidy and dirty, as cleaners had been absent.

The Iraqi Red Crescent Surgical Hospital is presently working as an out-patient clinic and the Iraqi Red Crescent Maternity Hospital is still closed.

 Al Yarmouk General Hospital  

The hospital is still acting as an out-patient clinic, but with a fully-functioning emergency unit. Surgical cases are being referred to other hospitals, as there is no operating theatre. A rocket destroyed a number of units during the fighting preceding the fall of Baghdad.

 Al Numan General Hospital  

The hospital is not yet being protected. Nevertheless, about 30% of the medical and paramedical staff are working, and the operating theatre is functioning. There are 60 in-patients, although the hospital has 200 beds.

 Al Karkh General Hospital  

This very well-managed hospital is working properly, although medical staff are having to fight off looters, even inside the premises. There are 52 patients (the hospital has 180 beds) and about a third of the staff are working. General dirtiness is posing problems here, as it is everywhere. As the director of the hospital puts it, " What's the point of antibiotics when there are flies everywhere and no way to dispose of refuse? "

 Al Kindi General Hospital  

The hospital is still acting as a first aid post and is not admitting any in-patients. The only open unit, the emergency unit, is clean and functioning.

 And more...  

The ICRC has carried out emergency repairs on water and power installatio ns in a number of hospitals (Al Rashad Radiology, Al Alwiya Maternity, Al Numan, Ibn Nafis, Al Karama, Saddam Maternity and Paediatric, Al Iskan, Ibn Baladi, Ibn Haltham and Medical City) and has provided many of them with emergency water supplies and oxygen. 

 Emergency water and habitat response  

The ICRC and personnel of the Al Rashad psychiatric hospital have drawn up an emergency plan of action to clean the buildings, disinfect wards and restore water and power (see Iraq Bulletin of 17 April 2003).

The ICRC has made a survey of all 24 major sewage installations and has drawn up a plan for re-fuelling those sites most urgently in need, to cope with the overflow of waste water in several suburbs of eastern and southern Baghdad.

Water tankers continued to deliver to certain Baghdad suburbs that are still without mains water.

    

 NORTHERN IRAQ  

The main Iraqi Kurdish towns remain calm. However, in Mosul, Kirkuk and the surrounding villages tension continues between Arab and Kurdish communities, aggravated by the fear of looting.

In Mosul, widespread looting erupted on the night of 11 April. All government buildings, hotels, schools, police stations, and, most serious of all, the Iraqi Red Crescent warehouse, 25 health centres, two hospitals and the university and public library were pillaged. From 11 to 14 April, the town was without water and electricity, and there is still only a partial supply.

All restaurants and most shops remain closed and farmers are not bringing vegetables to town.

Most people in Mosul are unable to contact their ne xt of kin, either in Iraq or abroad. Telephones are only working in some parts of town, so the third-largest city in Iraq is still partly cut off from the rest of the country and the world. The ICRC enabled 75 families to contact relatives abroad from a satellite phone set up outside Al Zahrwari Hospital.

In Erbil governorate, the ICRC visited and registered 250 Iraqi soldiers held in a camp by Iraqi Kurdish forces, plus eight wounded Iraqi soldiers who were in hospital.

 Emergency health response  

The ICRC visited the two main hospitals of Mosul on 16 and 17 April. Security is being provided by peshmerga (Iraqi Kurdish forces). Many of the installations had been looted and damaged. However, the hospitals have clean water, as there is a partial power supply via the city network, supplemented by power from back-up generators. By 17 April, 90% of staff had returned to their duties. The intensive care units are functioning and the wards are coping with the influx of patients. The ICRC delivered urgently needed medical and surgical materials (a kit for the treatment of 100 war wounded, a first aid kit and 50 body bags).

    

 BASRA AND SOUTHERN IRAQ  

Electricity and water supplies have been restored to about 60% of their prewar levels.

The Coalition forces have set up an Interim Advisory Council, which aims at facilitating the quick re-establishment of basic services with the help of Iraqi staff. The ICRC continues to be available to facilitate contacts between Iraqi representatives and the Coalition forces, in particular to plan the restoration of vital services.

 RESTORING FAMILY LINKS  

So far, the delegation in Baghdad has forwarded over 1,000 " safe and well " messages from people in Baghdad to their relatives in about 30 countries world-wide. The success rate for the delivery of these messages is very high, with about 90% of the messages having reached their destinations. This is largely thanks to the efficient services of Red Cross and Red Crescent offices around the world, which are contacting family members in their countries to give them the reassuring news about their loved ones in Baghdad.

ICRC Erbil has so far collected and sent 11 " safe and well " messages.

In addition, the ICRC facilitated phone calls for 75 families living in Mosul to relatives abroad during a visit to the city on 16 and 17 April.

The number of people registering on the " family links " website has risen sharply this last week, and now stands at around 5,000.

For further information on family links, please refer to the special web page, http://www.familylinks.icrc.orgpress kit . A on the subject is available.