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Iraq: ICRC continues to provide assistance to victims of violence

31-05-2004 Operational Update

The ICRC continues to carry out a broad range of humanitarian activities in Iraq despite the limited presence of international staff on the ground due to the prevailing insecurity. In addition to expatriate staff, the ICRC currently has some 400 Iraqi colleagues working across the country.

These are the main activities carried out by ICRC staff between January and May 2004:

 
 
Keeping family members in touch.©ICRC/ref. iq-v-00003 
 

 Visits to places of detention : ICRC delegates regularly visit persons deprived of their liberty and detained by Coalition Forces in Iraq. They include both prisoners of war protected by the Third Geneva Convention and civilians protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention. The ICRC works to ensure that the conditions of detention and treatment of all persons deprived of their liberty correspond to the requirements of international humanitarian law. It also helps them maintain regular contacts with their families through the exchange of Red Cross Messages.

  • Between January and May 2004, the ICRC carried out 17 visits to six detention places under the control of the United States and United Kingdom. These places of detention held a total of more than 12,150 detainees over the reporting period. To determine their situation, ICRC delegates conducted nearly 1,300 private meeti ngs with persons deprived of their liberty. In parallel, ICRC delegates carried out 41 visits to some 780 detainees held by Kurdish authorities in 21 detention centres in northern Iraq. Between January and May, the ICRC, working with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, facilitated the exchange of nearly 12,600 Red Cross Messages between persons deprived of their liberty and their families.

 Response to emergencies : Over recent months, the ICRC has repeatedly acted to help victims of the armed violence in Iraq. It has provided assistance to hospitals and vulnerable population groups in a number of cities. To enhance its capacity to respond to emergencies, the ICRC has since January shipped dozens of tonnes of surgical and medical goods as well as other relief items from Jordan to Iraq. As far as possible, the ICRC distributes these goods in cooperation with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS).

Some examples:

 
 
Camp for displaced persons in Iraq©ICRC/ref. IQ-E-00482H 
 
  •  Erbil (northern Iraq): Surgical and medical materials were provided to two hospitals treating hundreds of people following several bomb attacks on 1 February.

  •  Basra (southern Iraq): 1.5 tonnes of medical and surgical supplies were distributed to four hospitals on 21 April following three car bomb explosions in the city. Two hospitals were also equipped with water storage tanks ('bladders') each holding 15,000 litres.

  •  Falluja (central Iraq): The ICRC was among the first international humanitarian organisations to bring aid to the city during the violence in April, delivering 1.5 tonnes of surgical equipment and medical supplies to clinics. The ICRC also accompanied a relief convoy organised by the IRCS. The ICRC and IRCS furthermore helped to establish a makeshift camp in Baghdad for people who fled Falluja. The two organisations distributed blankets, food, hygiene kits and cooking stoves to nearly 2,000 displaced persons.

  •  Najaf (central Iraq): The ICRC distributed 1.5 tonnes of medical and surgical supplies to the Najaf health directorate in April. 

  •  Response to drinking water shortages : The availability of drinking water in many parts of Iraq continues to be severely hampered by shortages of the electricity, manpower and management needed to run water facilities. In response to the shortcomings of the central water distribution system, the ICRC has been regularly delivering drinking water by tanker trucks to hospitals in Baghdad, Basra and Mosul and to communities in these cities with limited or no supply of safe water. In several neighbourhoods of Baghdad, for example, the ICRC has been delivering nearly 500,000 litres of water daily to local distribution outlets used by the population.