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Iraq: ICRC steps up aid operation as conflict intensifies

20-06-2014 Operational Update No 14/01

Armed conflict continues in Iraq. Fighting has spread from Mosul into parts of central Iraq, and has been taking place in Anbar since December. Thousands are dead and over 800,000 displaced.

The ICRC has been helping displaced people since the beginning of the year. So far, we have provided food and other aid to over 150,000 people who have fled the fighting. The ICRC has carried out distributions in Anbar, Baghdad, Diyala, Karbala, Najaf, Babel, Al Qadissiya, Salah al-Din, Kirkuk, and Nineveh.

Emergency relief

"In the past two weeks alone, we have distributed one-month food rations and other aid to over 31,000 people displaced from Mosul," said Patrick Youssef, head of the ICRC delegation in Iraq. "Similar distributions are continuing in other areas of the country. We have  installed 10 water tanks and provided food to another 2,800 people, and ICRC doctors have examined people in Khanaqin." The ICRC plans to airlift additional goods from Amman in the next few days, to increase its stocks in Erbil.

Medical supplies for hospitals

The protracted fighting has made it difficult for people to obtain health care in the areas affected. "The situation is extremely worrying. People are not always able to obtain the care they require in hospitals because medical staff cannot work in safety. Many hospital personnel have fled because of the danger, and there is a shortage of medicines," continued Youssef. "Medical staff must be allowed to carry out their activities unhindered, and hospitals must not be attacked. They have to be allowed to go on providing health care impartially for everyone." Power cuts due to system breakdowns or fuel shortages have brought additional misery and are having a major impact on the water supply.

The city of Fallujah has remained a battleground between armed groups and the Iraqi armed forces. It has suffered extensive loss of life and major damage to homes, hospitals, schools and water installations. Many remain without food, water, health care or adequate shelter.

After negotiating with all parties to the conflict and coordinating its activities with the Ministry of Health, the ICRC directly delivered wound-dressing materials for 500 patients to Fallujah's main hospital. We provided three other hospitals with enough dressing materials for 550 patients. The ICRC also completed the repair of a primary health-care centre and a water pumping station in Ramadi city, which had been damaged in clashes. The ICRC stands ready to return to the cities of Fallujah and Mosul to assess the needs of their hospitals, which are functioning at reduced capacity. We are still awaiting the security guarantees that we need in order to do so.

Detainee welfare

The recent wave of fighting has also led to many people being detained by the Iraqi security forces and armed groups. "We call on all sides to treat people in their custody with dignity and to ensure acceptable conditions of detention," said Mr Youssef. The ICRC is ready to visit anyone who has been detained, and we will do whatever we can to help ensure that their conditions of detention respect human dignity. Ways we can help include facilitating contact between detainees and their families or providing material assistance.

Elsewhere in the country, since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has:

  • renovated and upgraded hospitals and clinics serving over 400,000 people, in coordination with the Iraqi health authorities;
  • provided training for the emergency department of the 650-bed Al-Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad and developed a contingency plan for the facility;
  • visited 49 places of detention holding over 26,350 detainees;
  • arranged for the exchange of over 1,500 family messages between detainees and their families, and made nearly 1,500 phone calls informing families that their detained relatives were safe and well;
  • built 20 water supply systems serving 253,000 people, including both residents and displaced persons;
  • upgraded irrigation canals and organized cash-for-work activities for over 1,000 people in violence-stricken areas;
  • made financial grants to over 160 needy households headed by women, to enable them to set up small businesses;
  • provided physical rehabilitation services for nearly 12,800 patients;
  • facilitated 2 joint Iraqi-Iranian excavation missions in southern Iraq, where a total of 332 sets of human remains were recovered, resulting in the remains of 122 Iranians and 19 Iraqis being repatriated to their respective countries during two handover ceremonies;
  • provided the Iraqi Red Crescent Society with financial assistance and supplies in support of its humanitarian activities throughout the country;
  • promoted respect for international humanitarian law and the ICRC's mandate by holding information sessions attended by over 3,500 people, including the authorities, members of the armed and security forces, communities, and tribal and religious leaders.

For further information, please contact:
Saleh Dabbakeh, ICRC Baghdad, tel: +964 790 191 6927
Sitara Jabeen, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 78 or +41 79 536 92 31


Photos

There are no showers at the camp yet, but this young man did not want to wait. Some of the IDPs told us they had not had a shower for a week. 

Kalak IDP camp, Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
There are no showers at the camp yet, but this young man did not want to wait. Some of the IDPs told us they had not had a shower for a week.
/ CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC

This girl insisted on wearing one of our ICRC badges while we were interviewing her father, with whom she had fled the fighting in Talafar. There is not much else for children to play with in this newly-built camp, located 45 km north-east of Erbil. 

Kalak IDP camp, Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
This girl insisted on wearing one of our ICRC badges while we were interviewing her father, with whom she had fled the fighting in Talafar. There is not much else for children to play with in this newly-built camp, located 45 km north-east of Erbil.
/ CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC

Collecting water has suddenly become a daily activity for these displaced people from Mosul. 

Kalak IDP camp, Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
Collecting water has suddenly become a daily activity for these displaced people from Mosul.
/ CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC