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Iraq: Overview of humanitarian action in 2002

29-10-2002 Operational Update

ICRC activities in Iraq in the first six months of 2002 - update 09.02


  The general context - a population at risk 

The crippling effects of the past 20 years - war, collapse of the economy and infrastructure - have left Iraq's 23 million people almost entirely dependent for daily survival on government rations and the oil-for-food regime administered by the United Nations. All social and economic sectors continue to suffer from shortages of basic services and goods; humanitarian needs remain substantial throughout the country. These are shown in the following ways:

  • widespread unemployment and increasing pover ty 

  • collapse and degradation of basic infrastructure 

  • chronic shortage of clean water and contamination by untreated waste 

  • increasing threats to health

  Humanitarian issues and ICRC action 

... in brief

 In the first half of 2002 the ICRC:  


  • continued to try to determine the fate of people unaccounted for from the 1990-91 war

  • visited almost 500 detainees in 23 different places of detention in northern Iraq

  • issued 166 travel documents and 984 certificates of detention for persons without identification papers to facilitate their resettlement

  • collected 2,370 and distributed 2,519 Red Cross messages (RCMs) to help civilians and detainees restore contact with their relatives

  • supervised the repatriation of 507 Iraqi POWs captured during the Iran-Iraq conflict, as well as the repatriation of 188 Iraqi servicemen detained in Iran since 1991

  • distributed essential surgical supplies to hospitals in northern and southern Iraq, and maintained emergency stocks in Baghdad and other locations

  • conducted assessment, rehabilitation and maintenance work on 16 water- and six sewage-treatment plants and pumping stations to benefit more than one million people

  • completed rehabilitation of three primary health care centres

  • provided pre-natal, maternal and childcare education in two hospitals and eight ICRC-rehabilitated primary health care centres

  • fitted 830 people with artificial limbs and joints at six centres where the ICRC continues to provide technical and training support; supported two similar workshops in northern Iraq in a delegated project with the Norwegian Red Cross

  • prepared an awareness programme in southern Iraq to warn of the dangers from unexploded remnants of war

  • organized seminars on international humanitarian law (IHL) for military officers and legal advisers of leading Kurdish political factions in northern Iraq.

... in detail

  The Missing, separated families, persons deprived of freedom 

 Objective >  to cooperate with all parties to the Gulf war to find constructive solutions to the issue of persons unaccounted for, with the ICRC acting as a neutral intermediary and, in order to provide families with information on the fate of their missing relatives, to continue pressing  for the liberation of all remaining POWs from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, allowing all who so wish to be able to return home .

  • since the end of the Gulf war and in accordance with its mandate under the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC has organized the repatriation of more than 70,000 Iraqi POWs, over 4,000 Coalition POWs, more than 5,000 Kuwa iti military personnel and civilians interned in Iraq, and some 1,400 civilians from various countries

  • the ICRC is seeking to reactivate a process with the governments concerned aimed at gathering information on persons unaccounted for 

  • at a summit meeting in March, both Iraq and Kuwait pledged to cooperate on the issue of their missing nationals from the Gulf war. The ICRC continues to monitor the situation and offer its help as a neutral intermediary to find a solution to the issue 

  • since the end of the conflict the ICRC has supervised the repatriation of more than 90,000 POWs on both sides

  • in January 2002 nearly 507 Iraqis were repatriated from Iran under ICRC auspices - the tenth operation of its kind since 1998

 Objective >  to     ensure that foreign detainees without consular protection are treated correctly and can communicate with their families  

a visit to the foreigners section at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad was carried out in June 2002; private interviews were held with ten foreign detainees and assistance provided for all 775 inmates of the section

 Objective >  to ensure that detainees held in northern Iraq are treated humanely and benefit from judicial guarantees, and may communicate with their families  

ICRC delegates conducted a series of visits to detention centres in northern Iraq during this period to ascertain material and psychological condi tions of detention and also to provide material assistance wherever necessary.

 Objective  > to help individual Iraqis keep in touch with relatives living in countries where normal communications are impossible (no diplomatic relations, unreliable technical links)  

during the first six months of 2002 ICRC handled an average of 768 Red Cross Messages (RCM) each month, mostly between Iraq and Kuwait.

  Water and sanitation 

 Objective  > to ensure safe and reliable drinking water production and waste-water evacuation systems in accordance with  national and international standards.  

The ICRC team in Iraq runs projects designed to upgrade deficient water and sewage treatment facilities. The work aims to support existing facilities and to make sure they work efficiently. ICRC engineers carry out repairs and improvements, where needed, and also work to enhance hygiene and working conditions at ten primary health centres.

Some of the main projects include:

  • Kirkuk water treatment plant (WTP) in Ta'mim - 700,000 people were ensured water during the summer months after engineering work was carried out 

  • F1 sewage lifting plant, Hilla, Babil governorate - a renovated facility serving a popu lation of 650,000

  • Cham Barakat: construction of a sewage system to halt contamination of water supplies at Dohuk town; rehabilitation of water distribution network in Akra town, for 265,000 people

 Altogether, since 1991 an average of 5 million Iraqis have had access to safe water each year thanks to the ICRC's efforts.  

  Wounded and sick 

 Objective  > to provide greater access to high-quality health care, in particular primary health care services  

Projects include:

  • training in management and supervisory skills for primary health care directors

  • training in child and ante-natal care for mothers, at the eight PHC centres rehabilitated by ICRC

  • completion of rehabilitation project for PHC centre at Khirnabat

 Objective >  to     ensure that local health facilities are able to meet basic needs of the sick and wounded, as well as psychiatric patients, and that health personnel are able to maintain or improve their skills  

Following its rehabilitation of eight hospitals the ICRC has redirected its focus to an improvement of primar y health care centres (PHCCs) in selected areas where the needs are greatest. The ICRC also continues its dialogue with health authorities with the aim of increasing cooperation and assisting in health policy decisions. Highlights of the health programme include:

  • essential surgical supplies have been distributed to hospitals in northern and southern Iraq, while emergency stocks are maintained in Baghdad and other locations

  • renovation of Basrah Teaching Hospital (500 beds) is completed. The hospital serves a region of some five million people

  • refresher training courses for nurses in the Basrah region were carried out in May and June 2002

  • an intensive nurse training programme has been set up at the al-Rashad psychiatric hospital in Baghdad, the only facility of its kind in Iraq, which was renovated by ICRC

  Internally displaced 

 Objective  > to help people displaced as a result of conflict to live in decent conditions  


During the first six months of 2002 ICRC provided several hundreds families with basic relief items and tents

 Objective > to ensure that all amputees in Iraq are fitted witjh artificial limbs, renewed as and when needed     and that physiotherapy is provided to all lower-limb amputees  

While maintaining its direct input at the various centres it supports, ICRC is working with the authorities to implement a national programme to ensure the quality provision of artificial limbs and joints as well as the standardization of procedures.

During the first six months of this year 70 per cent of the artificial limbs produced in ICRC-supported centres were made from materials provided by the institution. The target is to produce an average of at least 150 limbs per month.

  Remnants of war 

 Objective > to reduce significantly the number of casualties caused by unexploded remnants of war  

The ICRC launched a pilot project designed to raise awareness of the dangers posed by unexploded remnants of war in souther regions of Iraq. The programme will be run jointly by the ICRC, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society and Civil Defence directorate.

  Support for the National Society 

 Objective > to enhance the operational capacity of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society  

In cooperation with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the ICRC supports the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS), particularly in the fields of family links, emergency preparedness and the dissemination of principles of international humanitarian law. The national society and the ICRC are also working more closely together on public health education projects.