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Iraq: civilians still facing hardship every day

19-03-2009 News Release 09/57

Geneva/Baghdad (ICRC) – Six years after the opening shots were fired in Iraq's latest war, millions of civilians are still facing hardship every day, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today.

" Indiscriminate attacks continue to leave dozens of people killed or injured on a daily basis despite improvements in the security situation in many parts of Iraq, " said Jakob Kellenberger, the ICRC's president, during a five-day visit to the country. The aim of his trip was to gain a first-hand impression of the humanitarian situation and to meet with senior political and religious leaders in Baghdad and Najaf, including Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and Foreign Minister Hushiar Zebari.

The humanitarian situation in many areas of the country remains serious despite the Iraqi authorities'considerable efforts to provide basic services such as water and health care. " Further work is required to ensure that the basic needs of Iraqis are met. The ICRC is supporting these efforts, but the scale of the needs exceeds the emergency aid we can provide, " said Mr Kellenberger. In 2008, the ICRC helped around four million people procure clean water and more than 500,000 people obtain better access to primary health care and basic emergency services, and provided more than 100,000 displaced people with other assistance.

Mr Kellenberger also visited Rusafa Prison in Baghdad, where the ICRC has been regularly monitoring conditions of detention and the treatment of approximately 7,000 detainees. " The Iraqi authorities have granted the ICRC access to all places of detention throughout the national territory, and we hope to be able to conduct more visits in the near future, " said Mr Kellenberger. Visiting detainees remains the ICRC's priority in the country, where the organization's delegates carry out regular visits to more than 27,000 detainees held by the Iraqi central government, the US/Multinational Force in Iraq (MNF-I) and the Kurdistan regional government. Mr Kellenberger placed particular emphasis on the authorities'obligation to respect the judicial guarantees afforded detainees under international law.

In his discussions with the authorities, Mr Kellenberger also raised the issue of people who have gone missing as a result of the successive conflicts that have afflicted the country. The ICRC president encouraged the authorities to press ahead with their efforts to clarify what happened to these missing people.

Read also:

Operational update, January 2009  
Facts and Figures, 2008  
For further information, please contact:
  Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Iraq, tel: +962 777 399 614 or +962 6 552 39 94
  Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18


Note for editors:

As security improved in 2008 and 2009, the ICRC expanded its presence throughout the country and stepped up its humanitarian work. The ICRC now has staf f in Baghdad, Basra, Najaf, Erbil, Suleimaniyeh, Dohuk, Ramadi and Khanaqin. Among the 531 staff in its Iraq delegation are 91 expatriates, 35 of whom are permanently based in the country.