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Iraq Bulletin – 28 May 2003

28-05-2003 Operational Update

Latest reports from ICRC staff in the field (covering 19 – 25 May)

 

FOCUS ON HEALTH  

As ICRC medical teams continue their visits to medical facilities around the country, a clear pattern of problems is emerging:

  • Security remains a primary concern, particularly affecting female staff returning home after work, especially after a late shift.

  • Electric power is available for only a few hours a day, perhaps a little more for places that have generators; this has a direct effect on refrigeration systems, a crucial factor as summer arrives.

  • The power supply also has an impact on the treatment of water and sewage; cases of gastro-enteritis and diarrhoea are reported to be on the increase.

  • Some hospitals are forced to use wood fires to cook for the patients.

  • In some maternity and pediatric hospitals (such as al Habibiya, Zahraa and Ibn al Baladi), child malnutrition is said to be rising, and more premature deliveries are reported.

  • Most medical staff are back at work, although salaries have not been fully paid.

   
 

 BAGHDAD AND CENTRAL IRAQ  

 General situation  

    

Security is still a concern, with armed elements of all kinds at work. The Baghdad-Erbil road remains unsafe and subject to banditry, and the same can be said about the highway near Ramadi. In Kirkuk, the security situation remains volatile.

 Protection and Tracing  

    

 Detention:  

  • Between 24 to 27 May an ICRC team visited people detained by Coalition forces in and around Baghdad.

 Restoring family links:  

  • It is now possible for people in Iraq to send standard Red Cross Messages (RCM) to their relatives abroad, and to receive answers from other countries. Messages are channeled through the Central Tracing Agency in Geneva, in co-operation with the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in various countries. The new set-up will also allow Iraqis living abroad to send RCM to their relatives in Iraq. The Iraqi RC will be responsible for collecting and distributing the RCM within Iraq.

  • More than 100 people visit the ICRC delegation in Baghdad each day, seeking news of relatives arrested (or believed so) or otherwise disappeared. Some write Red Cross Messages or use the satellite phone to get in touch with families abroad.

  • An ICRC team spent a week in Najaf in order to provide satellite phone, internet and Red Cross Message facilities for residents to contact their families.

 Medical activities  

The ICRC medical teams continue their visits to hospitals and medical facilities, with the aim of evaluating their needs. During their visits, the teams covered areas of Baghdad, as well as the governorates of Anbar (Fallouja), Babel (Hilla), Najaf, Diyala, Baaquba and Kerbala. (See round-up of problems above)

 Water and sanitation  

An ICRC team visited hospitals and health centres in and around Baghdad and carried out emergency repair work on water and power supply points. The team also delivered oxygen and cooking gas to health facilities in Baghdad and in the governorates of Kerbala, Najaf, Qadissiza, Diyala and Babil.

Emergency repairs were carried out on several key water production facilities at al Maidan, al Wahad and al Nahran. The ICRC also started distributing water to 20 new sites in eastern Rasafa.

 Economic security  

The ICRC delivered food supplies for a thousand families to the Iraq RC branch in Najaf, which will give them mainly to people directly affected by the conflict (such as the displaced or people living in damaged houses).

An association for the blind received food for 600 people.

 Cooperation with the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement  

    

The Iraqi RC is a ctively involved in collecting tracing requests (requests from families for information about missing relatives). This is done in close cooperation with the ICRC delegation.

 Mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO)  

The ICRC is carrying out awareness programmes in 14 governorates, closely working with the Iraqi RC to reach as many people as possible in areas at risk from mines and other explosive objects. There is an urgent need to influence people's behaviour and attitude towards mines and UXO, as accidents continue to occur, leaving victims killed or maimed and placing further strain on health resources that are already over-stretched.

The first ICRC-sponsored training session in Baghdad on mines/UXO and their adverse effects was attended by 20 Iraq RC volunteers. The objective is for the volunteers, once fully aware of the issue, to pass the message to the people in areas at risk.

 BASRA AND SOUTHERN IRAQ  

 General situation  

The lifting of UN sanctions on Iraq by the Security Council was greeted in traditional style by celebratory shooting throughout Basra city, which lasted several hours. Six people were killed and 40 wounded by stray bullets.

A new police station opened in Zubayr near Basra, thus extending the areas covered by the Iraqi police force.

 Protection and Tracing  

 Detention:  

  • ICRC delegates started visiting transit places of detention under British co ntrol in Basra and Missan provinces. Delegates meanwhile conducted their third visit to the detention camp of Umm Qasr, where some 700 persons are still being held. Detainees were able to write Red Cross Messages to their families.

 Restoring family links:  

  • Some Iraqis injured during the war had been evacuated by Coalition forces to the US hospital ship " Comfort " for treatment. When the vessel left to return home, the Iraqi patients were transferred to two hospitals in Bahrain. The ICRC followed up on their cases, and was able to locate the relatives of four of them, who were transferred to Kuwait by Coalition forces, then to Bahrain, where the Bahraini Red Crescent Society is taking care of them.

 Medical activities  

    

In Basra and the south, the problems identified in hospitals and health centres are principally poor hygiene and the lack of basic nursing care and physiotherapy (mostly due to the absence of female staff and low motivation).

 Water and sanitation  

Various repairs have been going on in and around Basra (al Heda, Bradiya, al Garma), while needs elsewhere are assessed (Missan governorate). The ICRC team is distributing chlorine for use in different stations.

Hospitals in Zubayr regularly receive water delivered by the ICRC.

 Mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO)  

As part of it s awareness-raising campaign, the ICRC team trained 40 Iraqi RC volunteers in Nasiriya on effective presentation techniques (how best to pass the message to adults and children), as well as on the most efficient way to gather and analyze facts and figures on victims and contaminated areas.

 NORTHERN IRAQ  

 General situation  

The security situation is tense, especially in areas now under Kurdish control.

 Protection and Tracing  

 Restoring family links:  

  • The ICRC satellite phone service in Mosul continues to meet a pressing need among the population. A field trip to Sunjar and Telaafar enabled people in these rural areas to avail themselves of the same service. Total number of satellite phone calls made: 985

 Medical activities  

As elsewhere in the country, security inside medical facilities remains a major concern.

 Economic security  

ICRC distributed 100 food parcels at Sinjar hospital in Dohuk.

 FROM ICRC IN JORDAN  

The ICRC continues to provide basic assistance, including drinking water (420 litres a day), to a group of Iraqis stranded in the no man's land between Iraq and Jordan. These people, as well as inhabitants of Rutba, are also able to use ICRC s atellite phones to contact their families abroad. In the past week almost 400 phone calls were made. Since the beginning of this activity more than 3,300 people used the phone facilities provided by the ICRC team in al Ruweishid.