Iraq: Daily bulletin – 1 April 2003
01-04-2003 Operational Update
Latest reports from ICRC staff in the field in Baghdad and Basra. Visits begin to prisoners of war (POWs). Alleged misuse of Red Crescent ambulance.
ICRC staff in Iraq currently number 14 expatriates, based in Baghdad, Basra and northern Iraq, and around 100 national staff. In addition, a team of 15 delegates is now visiting prisoners of war (POWs).
Prisoners of war (1 April)
See yesterday's (31.03) press release on the start of visits to Iraqi POWs held by the coalition. This first visit is continuing and will probably last a number of days. Contacts with the Iraqi authorities on visits to coalition POWs held by them are being actively pursued.
Alleged misuse of Red Crescent ambulance
The ICRC has seen media reports that coalition forces were attacked from a supposed Iraqi Red Crescent Society ambulance. The ICRC was not in the area at the time and has received no additional information on this incident: it cannot therefore comment. If this incident were to be confirmed, it would constitute a grave abuse of the red crescent emblem protected by the Geneva Conventions. It would also considerably increase the risk for all those of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement working under the protection of this emblem.
BAGHDAD and areas to the west (31 March)
Large sections of the telephone network are no longer functioning, meaning that ICRC delegates have to personally visit contacts in government and local businesses. Movement in the city actually appears to have increased, as people have to visit family and friends to check on their condition rather than being able to call them.
The number of visitors to the ICRC's delegation has decreased. For the time being, only a few journalists and foreigners trying to resume contacts with their country of origin are coming to the office. While most shops remain closed, some open-air markets have started catering for the population's needs.
WaterThe ICRC continued to transport additional drinking water to poorly served areas of Baghdad and some of the capital's northern suburbs. In all, 145 cubic metres (145,000 litres) were provided. In addition, 14,200 one-litre water bags were delivered to five nutritional rehabilitation centres and one hospital in Baghdad. Repair and maintenance work at different Baghdad hospitals is ongoing (for details see Daily bulletin of 31 March).
Ramadi and Fallujah
An ICRC doctor and water engineer have made assessments of hospitals and the water infrastructure in Ramadi (100 km west of Baghdad) and Fallujah (50 km west of the capital), both in Anbar governorate. The whole western area of Iraq, from Heet to Fallujah, has been without electricity for three days since two major electricity sub-stations were damaged during hostilities. Most water treatment facilities in the governorate are operated by back-up generators and consequently only function between 6 and 9 hours per day at roughly 40% capacity.
The ICRC plans to provide one first-aid-post kit, other medical equipment and 120 blankets to the main hospital in Ramadi; and blankets and body bags to the hospital in Fallujah, as well as spare parts and a contractor to repair the hospital's second autoclave. The main hospital and the maternity and children's hospital in Ramadi will also be assisted in their preparations for a possible breakdown in the power and water supply (generator maintenance, supply of one-litre water bags and repair of the water compact unit).
BASRA (31 March)
Fighting continued around Basra, and the overall situation was reported to be tense.
Local technicians from the water and electricity boards, working with the support of the ICRC, were continuing their efforts to increase capacity at the Wafa'Al-Qaed water pumping station. They were carrying out cabling and connection work to ensure operation of the remaining three back-up generators at the station.
Meanwhile, the ICRC hired four tanker trucks to provide drinking water to suburbs of Basra not connected to the water-supply network. An ICRC engineer was also working to increase the quantity of water reaching Basra general hospital.
Monitoring the health situation
An ICRC health delegate continued to monitor the situation closely in three hospitals as well as at first-aid posts throughout the city. She is particularly attentive to any signs of outbreaks of diarrhoea or similar diseases as a possible result of the insufficient water supply.