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Iraq bulletin – 1 May 2003

01-05-2003 Operational Update

Latest reports from ICRC staff in the field.

 BAGHDAD AND CENTRAL IRAQ  

 General  

Lack of security is still a major concern in Baghdad, with no tangible improvement over the past few days. Information is unclear regarding the incidents that continue to give rise to heavy shooting during the night.

On 28 April an incident occurred during a demonstration in Feluja, where angry Iraqi youths confronted US troops, leaving 15 demonstrators dead and over 50 injured. The age of victims ranged from 6 to 23 years, according to hospital sources. The ICRC sent one first-aid kit for war-wounded and a supplementary anaesthesia kit to a hospital close to where the incident took place. 

 Protection activities  

    

The ICRC's office in Baghdad is focusing on various activities to enable family members to re-establish contact, making use of " safe and well " messages, satellite telephones and Red Cross messages to prisoners of war. In addition, ICRC tracing delegates are currently assisting families looking for their relatives who believe they have either been arrested by the Coalition Forces or taken to Coalition Forces'medical facilities for treatment.

 Medical situation / Baghdad hospitals  

    

Security remains an issue for the hospitals in Baghdad. In some, the ICRC is able to carry out repairs and deliver medical supplies, while in others, such as al Rashad psychiatric hospital, the looting of materials and installations already repaired has led the ICRC to suspend its work there. Oxygen was supplied to seven hospitals in Baghdad, while water bags were distributed to hospitals in Baghdad and Diyala.

Al Kindy teaching hospital clinic: the hospital doctors are using a private house as an outpatient clinic to serve the residents of the neighbourhood. Some medical equipment and drugs were delivered to the hospital.

Al Na'uman hospital: this hospital has a 250-bed capacity, though currently has only 90 patients. The staff are generally less busy now, and carry out five to six surgical interventions a day. During the war 25% of the staff were working at the hospital, and now 100% are working. The director reports that they are seeing more injuries from unexploded ordnance, especially among children. Medical supplies were delivered to this hospital.

Al Yarmook hospital: the ICRC completed emergency repairs, replacing the broken glass in the male and female wards on two floors of the hospital, as well as in the operating theatres, delivery rooms and incubator rooms that were all affected by the bombing. Repairs to the water system of the hospital continue (piping and electromechanical works).

 Water and electricity supply  

Water distribution by trucks continues in the poorly served areas of Baghdad and at a further 20 or so sites around the city suffering from water shortages.

Around Baghdad, an assessment of the general health situation, including water, sewage, hospitals and primary health-care clinics, is on going in al Mamudiya, Yusifiya, Latifiya and Madaien. The assessment in Feluja could not be carried out thoroughly, owing to the security incident (see above) which prompted our team to leave the area as soon as possible.

 Economic security  

    

The ICRC delivered food (monthly rations) and other relief items (tarpaulins, jerry cans, buckets and lanterns) to 120 Palestinian families displaced in Baghdad.

 BASRA AND SOUTHERN IRAQ  

 General  

    

Local police services are slowly returning to all main cities in the south. NGOs, UN agencies and Arab National Societies are now moving in the field, planning and starting humanitarian activities. As regards the ICRC, teams working in the areas of cooperation, water and habitat, and mine awareness are constantly active in the field.

Field trips have recently been carried out from Basra to Nasiriya, Samawah, Diwaniya, Najaf and al Amarah. No major needs were reported, but some social institutions have either been totally looted or fear that any assistance distributed could be looted.

Medical supplies were distributed in Nasiriya, Samawah, Diwaniya and Najaf. In addition, clothes donated by the Bahrain Red Crescent Society were distributed to patients in Basra's three main hospitals (Basra teaching hospital, Basra general hospital and al Tahrir hospital).

Activities to re-establish contact between family members are ongoing: people have been calling their relatives abroad with the ICRC's satellite phone s, while POWs registered in Umm Qasr have sent 400 " safe and well " messages to their families in Basra (the names of the addressees are posted outside the ICRC's office in Basra).

A joint ICRC/Federation team visited the Iraq Red Crescent Society (IRCS) branch in Nasiriya to assess their situation, their needs and their plans.

The assessment of the main water treatment plants in the south continues. The Petrochemical water station (between Umm Qasr and Basra) is now producing potable water. Water tankers that supply the main hospitals in Basra are now refilling at the Petrochemical station. However, leaks and illegal tapping onto water pipes continue: 23 new incidents of this kind have been located over the past few days.

The problem of unexploded ordnance is rife: the IRCS in Basra alone has reported some 30 different contaminated locations and several incidents have already been reported. IRCS volunteers in Basra are currently following formal training by ICRC mine awareness specialists before they start surveys of over 170 towns and villages in Basra governorate.

 EASTERN IRAQ  

 Al Kut and Badra (eastern Iraq): mission from Kermanshah  

After several attempts to cross the border into Iraq from Kermanshah, the ICRC recently managed to enter Wasit governorate. Al Kut has more or less returned to normality, with security no longer an issue during the day. Military operations are over. Badra for its part has been spared by the war, with the people from surrounding areas and cities who had sought refuge in Badra now returning to their places of origin. However, unexploded ordnance also seems to be a problem in these areas: several cases of related injuries have been treated so far in the health dispensary in Badra. In the town of al Kut (population 380,000) the contamination from unexploded ordnance seems to be greater and more widespread than in Badra. Children are generally the most affected group among the population. There is therefore an urgent need for an awareness programme concerning unexploded ordnance and other explosive remnants of war.

The cross-border mission aimed to:

- deliver relief items donated by the Iranian Red Crescent Society to the dispensary in Badra, a border town on the Iraq side. The two donations included syringes, rolls of cotton wool, dried bread, sheets, blankets and jerry cans;

- assess the situation in order to propose concrete activities to the ICRC in Baghdad;

- look into different means of re-establishing contact between family members. Nine " safe and well " messages were collected in Badra and sent abroad while 61 phone calls (49 from Badra and 12 from al Kut) were made to family members overseas on 23 and 25 April. ICRC staff established contact with the al Kut branch of the IRCS, which is operational and in contact with its headquarters in Baghdad. The ICRC delegates were positively impressed by the activities carried out by IRCS staff in spite of the difficulties caused by the recent conflict. The IRCS has been collecting information on families who reported the arrest of family members by the Coalition Forces, and has shared it with ICRC delegates.

 RESTORING CONTACT BETWEEN FAMILY MEMBERS -- SYRIA  

    

Al Hol camp : the ICRC and volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent facilitated contact between the refugees in the a/m camp and their families, through 42 satellite telephone calls and seven registrations on the ICRC's special website: http://www.familylinks.icrc.org/gulf2003  

A 17-year-old Iraqi girl was reunited with her family after a month of separation.

Boukamal camp:   refugees in this camp were able to contact their families through 99 satellite telephone calls and three " safe and well " messages.