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Iraq bulletin – 9 May 2003

09-05-2003 Operational Update

Latest reports from ICRC staff in the field.

  (covering 5 May to 7 May)  

 BAGHDAD AND CENTRAL IRAQ  

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger visited Baghdad 5-6 May to meet ICRC staff and get a first-hand impression of the situation.

 General  

Encouraged by the gradual return to normality, some diplomatic missions have reopened their offices (Spain, France, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Pakistan and very soon Britain). 

However, the security situation continues to be highly volatile in Baghdad. There is still no credible explanation for the intermittent shooting heard every night in different areas of the city. Looting, vandalism and sabotage continue to plague public service facilities.

 Protection – restoring family links  

    

Some statistics for the period covered:

  • Phone calls: 2,700 (with only 9 satellite phones working)

  • Safe & Well (S & W) messages: 1,700 

  • S & W from POW: 400 

  • RCM: 350

The ICRC and the Iraqi Red Crescent are distributing Red Cross Messages.

 Protection issues from the Iran-Iraq conflict  

On 6 May, 59 Iraqi prisoners of war were repatriated from Iran aboard an ICRC aircraft. Most families were able to meet them at a hotel in Baghdad, and all of them went home safely.

    

 Medical situation / Baghdad hospitals  

Visits to hospitals and health centres continue, and a first visit to the blood bank took place.

The ICRC distributed medicines and medical items to the neuro-surgical hospital and to Al-Amal maternity hospital in Baghdad.

350 food parcels were distributed to the medical and technical staff of Al-Rashad Hospital (who have not been paid since March), while clothes and hygiene kits were distributed to the patients.

 Water and Sanitation  

Repair work started on Abu Nuwas pumping station, heavily looted in recent weeks. This station is extremely important for supplying water to poor areas of Al Sadr, Khamalyia, Al Ameen and Al Uboor districts. Unfortunately by the next morning looters had not only stolen equipment but had also destroyed what remained.

Water distribution by tankers covered 18 locations, delivering 190,000 litres over the past few days. Emergency repairs continue in Al Amari water treatment facility.

 Cooperation with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society and other national societies  

A joint ICRC / Federation team visited Ba’quba, Najaf and Karaba branches on 6 and 7 May. All three directors mentioned that the main needs of the people were security, medicine, clean water and support for the volunteers. 

In Najaf, the branch is also playing a facilitating role between the occupation forces, the public services and the community.

The Ba'quba branch relayed 113 safe and well messages from prisoners of war to their families.

In the three branches, many volunteers were active during the hostilities giving first aid, evacuating the wounded to hospital and burying the dead.

The Qatar Red Crescent donated two medical kits just before the war - one for ICRC and one for the Iraqi national society.

 Explosive Remnants of War  

ICRC teams going to the field are now distributing printed material to raise awareness about this major danger for the population.

    

 BASRA AND SOUTHERN IRAQ  

 General  

In Basra, some schools are reopening, but life is still far from normal. UN agencies are settling down in Basra. However, security is still an issue in the city, and the ICRC is be ing very cautious in its movements, especially at night.

Fear of cholera epidemics in southern Iraq is increasing, and the WHO has already sent samples to Kuwait for clinical testing. Cholera is endemic in the south and this is the " season " for it. However, given the deteriorating overall health situation, it will be much more difficult to cope with it this year. The security situation (destruction and looting of water facilities) is ultimately to blame for the spread of cholera and other water-borne diseases.

 Protection and Tracing  

Efforts to re-establish family links are still being made by ICRC and the Iraqi RC (with 110 Red Cross Messages and some 600 satellite phone calls a day). 

Following a visit to the Tallil field hospital, members of one family were reunited.

 Medical activities  

Basra General Hospital received medical supplies and dressing material.

The medical team also visited Al-Taheer (renamed Port Hospital, according to the new Director) and donated anaesthetic and suture sets.

The ICRC team visited two US military field hospitals to discuss cases that might need surgery abroad.

 Water and Sanitation  

The pipeline bringing untreated water from Wafa al Qaed (the main station in Basra) to Ab u Kasib has been repaired on 5.05.03 by an ICRC sub-contractor. The ICRC sub-contractor also repaired the pipeline bringing water to Shuaiba.

The pumping station at Al Hayyanniyah, which supplies Al-Zubair, has been completely looted, leaving half the town's population of 50,000 with problems of access to water. The repair of the Shuaiba pipeline allows some water to reach Al-Zubair.

The total quantities distributed into the network have now reached their highest level since 20 March but the problem of security and the damage to the electrical system is hindering production.

Nasiriya governorate: the ICRC delivered about 32 MT of chlorine, enough to cover the needs of the whole governorate for one month.

 Explosive Remnants of War  

There are increasing reports of incidents involving children. One nine-year old boy, for example, lost one of his hands while playing with the fuse of a mortar shell.

 NORTHERN IRAQ  

 General  

Daily life is returning to normal. More and more trucks are on the streets, providing shops with commodities, and two fuel stations are open (25 litres max per vehicle).

However, unexploded ordnance is also a problem here: on 6 May, two people were killed in a blast, apparently caused by the explosion of an artillery shell in the village of Kani Massi in Dohuk Governorate.