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Update N°99/02 on ICRC activities in Iraq

08-02-1999 Operational Update

 ICRC provides relief and medical assistance in southern Iraq  

After the explosion of a US missile on 25 January in a civilian area of Basrah, an ICRC team was dispatched to evaluate the extent of the damage caused, and provide relief and medical assistance. The team visited the two sites where allegedly missiles fell, and paid visits to two hospitals where most of the wounded had been transferred. The missiles fell on very poor areas and damage to houses was quite extensive. 15 houses were severely damaged or totally destroyed, and about 60-70 others less severely affected. According to the authorities, 15 persons died and about 100 were wounded.

After assessing the humanitarian situation, the ICRC team carried out relief distributions together with the local branch of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society. Kitchen sets, kerosene heaters, tarpaulins, food parcels, blankets and soap were given to 20 families whose houses had been partially or totally destroyed; blankets and soap were distributed to 60 families whose houses had endured light damage. In addition, fifteen tents were transferred to the ICRC for distribution next week to those who could not be resettled in private houses.

Following this, the ICRC decided to establish an emergency stock in Basrah. This will comprise: 1000 blankets, 70 tents, medical kits for 500 war wounded, 100 tarpaulins, kitchen sets and soap, to be distributed as needed by an ICRC delegate and an Iraqi Red Crescent repre sentative. The ICRC is also carrying out a survey in the town of Basrah and surroundings to determine what further damage was caused to the civilian population by the December air raids.

 Winter relief programme for internally displaced persons in northern Iraq completed  

As part of the ongoing ICRC assistance programme for the most vulnerable displaced persons in northern Iraq - where an estimated 120,000 people have been driven from their homes since fighting between rival Kurdish factions broke out in 1994 -- ICRC delegates carried out a major distribution of winter relief supplies.

As the displaced live in tents or in open, unheated public buildings, conditions are harsh during the winter months when temperatures can drop below zero. In cooperation with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society and the local administration, the ICRC distributed blankets, carpets and heaters among 12,000 families (around 72,000 people). More than 11,000 children aged 6 to 12 received warm jackets. Medical assistance was also supplied to hospitals and pharmacies in Arbil.

The situation in the area remains difficult for many of the displaced, and the need for humanitarian aid is still acute six months after the September peace agreement between the two main Kurdish parties was signed in Washington D.C.

 Regular ICRC activities in  Iraq  

Meanwhile, the ICRC continues to carry out other priority activities in Iraq. Delegates regularly visit 600 detainees held by the KDP and the PUK in the northern governorates, either for security reasons or as a result of hostilities, and carries out tracing activities for them. The ICRC acts as a neutral intermediary in the search for people still missing after the Gulf war.

Under the water-supply and sanitation programme, the ICRC rehabilitates water purification plants and provides spare parts and other equipment, thus improving the quantity and quality of drinking water for millions of people, and ensuring better evacuation of sewage water. Nevertheless, the overall situation in the country is deteriorating rapidly and the supply of drinking water is not guaranteed in the long run under the conditions prevailing. The ICRC also provides assistance for the war-disabled, via the 6 ICRC-supported prosthetic/orthotic centres throughout the country.