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The ICRC in Iraq

12-02-2014 Overview

The ICRC has been in Iraq since 1980, addressing the consequences of violence and conflict. It visits detainees and enables them to maintain contact with their families, helps vulnerable groups, improves access to water and health care and supports the authorities’ efforts to clarify the fate of people missing from earlier conflicts.

Close contact with the authorities, tribal and community leaders, religious figures, armed and security forces, armed groups and civil society allows the ICRC to operate even in violence-prone areas, such as central Iraq, and in disputed territories.

The ICRC has 817 staff in Iraq, comprising 728 Iraqi colleagues and 89 expatriates. Together, they bring assistance and protection to people affected by conflict and violence.

Helping vulnerable groups

While continuing to help displaced persons, the ICRC is restoring livelihoods and enabling people regain or maintain their financial independence.

ICRC assistance focuses on helping poor farmers boost production, providing emergency assistance to internally displaced persons and refugees, and making grants to vulnerable women in charge of households and to disabled people so they can start small businesses.

Improving infrastructure

Access to clean water remains difficult in much of Iraq. ICRC engineers repair and upgrade water infrastructure, mainly in rural and neglected areas prone to violence. Some 1.5 million Iraqis have better access to clean water thanks to such activities, carried out with the support of the Iraqi authorities.

Supporting health services

Health services still struggle to meet the needs of the population, especially in remote areas. The ICRC supports selected primary health-care centres, renovating premises and training staff. The organization also provides training and equipment to 12 physical rehabilitation centres, helping people with a disability rejoin the community. 

Visiting detainees

The ICRC visits thousands of detainees held by the Iraqi central authorities and the Kurdish regional authorities, monitoring treatment, conditions of detention, access to health care, contact between detainees and families and respect for basic judicial guarantees. The ICRC maintains confidential dialogue with the authorities with the aim of improving the situation of detainees. The organization donates items such as clothes and bedding, and undertakes water and sanitation projects

Clarifying the fate of missing persons

The ICRC supports the authorities’ efforts to clarify the fate of the tens of thousands still unaccounted for since the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the 1990-1991 Gulf War. It facilitates dialogue and information exchange between the parties, provides forensic training, renovates facilities and facilitates joint exhumations and the handover of remains.

Communicating on humanitarian issues

The ICRC encourages the media to report on humanitarian issues by publishing fact sheets, brochures, newsletters and news releases and highlights the need to protect civilians, health personnel and medical facilities. Military personnel, religious scholars, tribal leaders and students deepen their knowledge of the ICRC and international humanitarian law through briefings and presentations.

Cooperating with other organizations

The Iraqi Red Crescent (IRCS) and the ICRC work together to respond to the needs of violence-affected people. The ICRC trains and coaches IRCS staff and volunteers on how to assess needs in an emergency and supports the IRCS in establishing a specialized pool of disaster management trainers. The IRCS has also started to establish emergency response teams, which ICRC support through training on first aid and dead body management. The ICRC also donates relief items to reinforce the IRCS’ response capacity. Technical support, in terms of both donations and training, is also provided for mine risk awareness programs and dissemination of international humanitarian law.



Baghdad, Ministry of Health orthopedic centre. The ICRC provides training and material for the production of prostheses.
© ICRC / M.Greub / iq-e-00818