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Iraq: tensions persist, and so do the humanitarian needs

22-07-2003 Operational Update

Although major hostilities have ended in Iraq, the ICRC's work is far from over. Since the end of full-scale conflict the ICRC has continued to act under its Geneva Conventions mandate, in partnership with Red Cross and Red Crescent societies from around the world.

While there is now no imminent humanitarian crisis in Iraq there are serious needs in the water, health and sanitation sectors. Over the past three months the ICRC, leading a large-scale response by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, has substantially expanded its activities to address these problems. However, these efforts do not take away the occupying powers'responsibility under the Geneva Conventions to ensure basic services. 

The ICRC's main priority is to ensure that the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention are fully applied by the occupying powers. The ICRC aims to ensure that the rights of civilians and persons deprived of their freedom are respected and that the occupying powers are aware of and fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law.


  The ICRC currently has about 750 staff in Iraq including more than 140 international personnel. Staff members from various national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies are making a vital contribution to this work.

The ICRC is also drawing up a long-term strategy to address the fate of hundreds of thousands   of Iraqis missing as a result of decades of war and internal repression. In addition, the ICRC and the Iraqi Red Crescent Society have been helping Iraqis to resume contact with their families by satellite phone calls and Red Cross messages.

 Activities during 2003  

Altogether, during the first half of 2003 the ICRC:

  • visited more than 8,000 prisoners of war and interned civilians held by coalition forces in 19 places of detention in Iraq;

  • delivered substantial quantities of medical equipment and supplies to key urban hospitals treating the war-wounded;

  • carried out emergency repair work on water systems in more than 60 hospitals and other medical centres caring for more than 14,000 war casualties and other patients; similar repair work was carried out for a number of social institutions including old peoples'homes and orphanages;


The ICRC and the Iraqi Red Crescent are working throughout the country to help put people back in touch with their relatives.
Ref. IQ-E-00355
  • repaired water and sewage treatment plants and pumping stations in about 50 locations serving millions of people throughout the country;

  • maintained power, installed water storage facilities and delivered thousands of litres of water to key surgical hospitals treating the war-wounded;

  • installed water distribution stations and delivered trucked water to poorly served areas of Baghdad and Basra;

  • together with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS), assessed the danger presented by unexploded and abandoned munitions in different locations and notified the coalition authorities accordingly; trained hundreds of IRCS volunteers to carry out field surveys and aler t the population to the danger presented by these devices;

  • operated a satellite phone service, a Red Cross message service and a special web site to enable Iraqis to maintain family contacts with their relatives inside the country and abroad. IRCS volunteers played a key role in this activity. From the outbreak of hostilities until the end of May Iraqis made more than 20,000 phone calls to their relatives in the country or abroad. During the same period, over 15,000 Red Cross messages were collected and nearly 10,000 delivered between people in Iraq and family members abroad or living in other parts of the country. Meanwhile, nearly 8,000 identities were registered on the special web site.

 Contributions by national Red Cross / Red Crescent societies  

Dozens of national societies have made important contributions and many have visited Iraq to plan further activities. At different stages over the past months, over 40 expatriates from 15   different National Societies have contributed to the ICRC's operation in Iraq.

A number of National Societies will be involved in implementing humanitarian assistance projects in Iraq. The first delegated projects of this kind have been defined and are being assessed on the ground. These involve the rehabilitation of Hilla pediatric and maternity hospital by the German Red Cross; the rehabilitation of a water treatment plant by the Netherlands Red Cross; and the rehabilitation of Al-Rashad psychiatric hospital in Baghdad by the Norwegian Red Cross, which has also resumed its long-standing support for the orthotic/prosthetic centres in Arbil and Mosul.


Many Red Cross and Red Crescent societies are contributing to the operation, particularly by providing medical supplies.
Ref. IQ-E-00282

A further six delegated projects are currently under consideration, mainly in the field of health and water and sanitation, and will be proposed to national societies for implementation once the project details have been finalized and agreed upon.

By late June the total value of the'in kind'contributions made by national societies amounted to more than 8 million Swiss francs (USD 5.9 million, EUR 5.2 million) :

  • The Swiss Red Cross and Liechtenstein Red Cross provided water tankers that are being used for water distributions to hospitals and civilians in southern Iraq.

  • Funding for a further five tankers was received from the Austrian Red Cross (1), Egyptian Red Crescent (2) and Hellenic Red Cross (2).

  • The United Arab Emirates Red Crescent has provided two water tankers and one refrigerated truck and plans to send a powerful generator.

  • The Egyptian Red Crescent has sent 50 sets of reusable linen outfits for surgery, 50 sets of disposable surgical linen and 40 sets of splints.

  • The Hungarian Red Cross is in the process of dispatching 40 sets of gloves, 25 sets of bed linen, 100 hospital beds and mattresses and 120 wheelchairs.

  • The British Red Cross has shipped 1,000 hospital beds and mattresses, 200 patient trolleys, 200 dressing trolleys, 200 walkers and 175 wheelchairs.

  • In addition to various food and non-food items already provided for the ICRC's operation in Iraq, the Spanish Red Cross is donating 300 patient trolleys, 200 sets of bed linen, 100 Mayo tables, 50 sets of reusable surgical linen and 20 sets of disposable surgical linen.

  • The Swiss Red Cross has sent 30 sets of disposable surgical linen and 200 bed linen sets, and provided 87,000 blood bags.

  • The Austrian Red Cross has provided 25,000 blood bags and 50,000 blood transfusion sets and will be procuring three ambulances in the coming weeks.

  • The Danish Red Cross is to send 50 reusable surgical linen outfits and is preparing to dispatch 70 hospital beds for Intensive Care Units.

  • The Bahraini Red Crescent donated 70 wheelchairs that are currently being distributed in southern Iraq, as well as clothing.

  • The Iranian Red Crescent provided 500 pairs of surgical gloves, 50 hospital beds, mattresses and sheets and 30 wheelchairs.

  • The Moroccan Red Crescent provided various medicines.

  • The Finnish Red Cross provided a large assortment of surgical gowns.

 Financial support  

Financing for various other medical items have been provided by the following national societies:


An ICRC specialist makes an assessment at a Baghdad hospital - part of the ongoing support for the health service in Iraq.
Ref. IQ-E-00260
  • German Red Cross – external fixator sets

  • Singapore Red Cross – food parcels and oxygen concentrators

  • Cyprus Red Cross – pediatric material

  • New Zealand Red Cross – pediatric and dispensary sets

  • Indonesian Red Cross – hospital bed sheets, gowns and drapes, emergency health kits and various other medical items.

  • Qatari Red Crescent – emergency health kits


Other donations:

  • The American Red Cross - non-food items

  • The Syrian Red Crescent - food parcels

  • The Norwegian Red Cross contributed largely to the ICRC's pre-positioning of stocks in the region by sending water and sanitation equipment, vehicles and non-food items