Update no. 99/01 on ICRC activities in Iraq
08-01-1999 Operational Update
ICRC delegation remains operational during airstrikes
As announced, the ICRC delegation in Baghdad remained fully operational during and after the airstrikes on Iraq 16-19 December 1998, in order to provide emergency assistance when needed and to pursue its regular activities. For, clearly, the situation in humanitarian terms will remain a matter of concern for the ICRC in Iraq long after the present military crisis is over.
During the airstrikes, the ICRC obtained confirmation of more than 200 wounded and some ten deceased. It should be noted that most of the deceased were not registered at the hospitals but immediately buried, and thus the above figure can not be taken as the overall total of people killed or wounded in the four nights of the bombings.
Following the airstrikes, the ICRC stepped up its assistance programme, distributing medical sets, blankets and sheets to the major hospitals of the country. The Saddam General Hospital in the town of Tikrit (300 kilometres north of Baghdad) was damaged by several nearby explosions. The ICRC has hired two local contractors to rehabilitate the hospital under its supervision so as to ensure that the 400-bed facility can function properly again. Work started on 26 December and should be completed within two months. The heating system has already been repaired and shattered windows have been replaced. Further repairs will be carried out on the false ceilings and lights. As for the air-conditioning system, it will have to be restored to working order by early spring, when temperatures in the region start rising above 40 degrees.
The ICRC also sent water and sanitation engineers and staff to survey some of the water purification plants rehabilitated by the ICRC over the past years to determine whether they were still operating normally. The visits revealed that the water supply had not been
endangered by the military operations.
Throughout the crisis, the ICRC worked in close cooperation with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, and was in charge of co-ordinating the overall humanitarian response of the International Movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Iraq.
ICRC activities are proceeding normally again with a staff of 12 expatriates in Baghdad and 11 in northern Iraq.
Regular ICRC activities in Iraq
Since the 1991 Gulf war, the ICRC has engaged in a programme for the rehabilitation of water purification plants in Iraq by contributing either to their full rehabilitation or by providing spare parts. Nevertheless, the overall situation in the country is declining rapidly and the supply of drinking water is not guaranteed in the long run under the prevailing conditions.
In 1999, the ICRC will continue to carry out its main activities in Iraq which consist in: detention work, water and sanitation activities, support to prosthetic/orthotic centres for amputees (of which over 50% are mine victims). In addition, the ICRC carries out detention work and delivers emergency medical supplies and assistance to the victims of the ongoing hostilities in northern Iraq.