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Iraq: an ever deepening humanitarian crisis

07-05-2007 Press Briefing

The ICRC's head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa, Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, has spoken of an ever deepening humanitarian crisis as she launched an appeal for additional funds to meet the needs of the Iraqi people.

The ICRC is appealing for an extra 35 million Swiss francs to expand existing activities. Its 2007 Iraq budget will now total just over 91 million Swiss francs. A recent ICRC report described the Iraqi population's worsening humanitarian situation.    

  ©ICRC/T. Gassmann/CER-E-00675    
  Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa    

" Civilians bear the brunt of the relentless violence and things are not getting any better, " said Mégevand-Roggo at the public launch of the budget extension appeal at the ICRC's Geneva headquarters.

She said that appalling daily casualties that would be considered unacceptable elsewhere had become a matter of routine in Iraq.

The increase in its 2007 budget will allow the ICRC to expand its presence in Iraq. A new office is already operational in Najaf and two more are being opened in the provinces of Anbar and Ninawa. The number of expatriate staff will increase to 69 and the number of national employees will expand to 456.

The ICRC will increase programmes aimed at supporting the growing numbers of displaced – now estimated at 850,000 – the communities hosting them as well as other vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the disabled and female headed households. It plans to increase its distribution of food and other essential items to reach about 660,000 vulnerable people – more than twice the number originally planned for. Communities hosting IDPs will also benefit from income-generating projects.

Mégevand-Roggo also underscored the importance the Iraqi Red Crescent's role in attempts to meet the humanitarian needs of the country's people.

" The Iraqi Red Crescent is an invaluable partner. Without the Iraqi Red Crescent, we would simply not be able to implement our relief programmes in Iraq. "

The Iraqi Red Crescent has 135 offices in Iraq, with 1,500 staff members and 9,000 volunteers.

In addition to the distribution of relief aid, the ICRC is to increase the supply of urgently needed medical supplies, equipment and surgical instrum ents to hospitals, especially those in areas most affected by conflict. A total of five mobile clinics will also be set up to provide treatment to those unable to reach medical care. Support for the medico-legal institute will be maintained in the form of forensic and data collection training and the supply of essential equipment and body bags.

Water and sanitation projects will also be expanded, with trucking operations to supply clean water stepped up to combat disease.

In the field of detention-related activities, the ICRC aims to expand its family visit programme, already established in Basra, to allow relatives to visit those held by coalition forces in Baghdad.

ICRC delegates continue to visit those held by the multinational forces in Iraq and those detained by the Kurdish regional authorities in the north. Negotiations with the Iraqi authorities continue with a view to gaining access to places of detention under their control.

In partnership with the Iraqi Red Crescent, the ICRC will also continue to facilitate the exchange of Red Cross Messages between detainees and their families.

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