Update on ICRC emergency operations in Iraq - interview
Iraq, day 8: ICRC press officer Florian Westphal discusses ICRC support to hospitals, water supply systems rehabilitation, and preparations to assist internally displaced people. He also speaks of the daily working conditions of ICRC personnel.
1.What can you tell us about the humanitarian situation in Baghdad?
Well at the moment what our colleagues are trying to do in Baghdad is to regularly monitor the situation in the hospitals, especially those who treat the war-wounded. If they need surgical materials we will deliver them. Also the technicians have been trying to preposition water supplies in hospitals, in health clinics and also in orphanages, for example, just in case the water supply in Baghdad is interrupted, we want to make sure that these institutions still have some drinking water available to help their patients.
2.What about the water supply problems in Basrah?
Well, we had a partial success in the sense that ICRC engineers and technicians of the Basra water board managed to start up three generators at the main pumping stations, which is north of the city. That should mean that the city now has about 50% of the water it needs and also that there has been an improvement in the water quality. Obviously the work continues. We still want to increase the capacity and we are also still concerned about certain urban centres south of Basra which are still disconnected from the water network and that has been the case since last Friday.
3.How is the situation of displaced people in northern Iraq evolving?
What our ICRC colleagues in the north are trying to do is to really monitor the situation of the internally displaced. You may have heard that there are several hundred thousand people in that area who have left their homes. A lot of them did so before the fighting started and they were relatively well prepared. So they took food, they took other belongings along. However there are now several thousand people who are much more vulnerable and certainly one of our priorities will be to monitor the situation and if necessary provide assistance to them.
4.What are the working conditions for ICRC personnel at tbe moment?
Obviously our colleagues in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq are working extremely hard at the moment. Added to that we have the stress of being in a city which is being attacked. Recent ly moving during the day has obviously become more difficult because there are now also daytime bombardments on some days and they are certainly tired. They have an extreme workload, but it is really fantastic to see how they manage to carry on and how dedicated they are to their task.