Iraq bulletin - 22 April 2003
22-04-2003 Operational Update
Latest reports from ICRC staff in Baghdad, Basra and Arbil. Gradual improvements in some areas belie enormous needs in others. Security still a major problem, preventing much-needed hospital staff from getting to work.
BAGHDAD (covering 19-21 April)
Electricity has now been partially restored in the city, which will not only help to ease living conditions for residents but also facilitate the work of hospitals and the water-supply system; it is also likely to have a positive impact on the security situation. Yet while the situation in central Baghdad has improved, the surrounding poorer suburbs lag far behind, with pools of sewage and heaps of uncollected refuse polluting the streets.
The ICRC remains cautious in its movements around Baghdad, especially at night when intermittent shooting can be heard in parts of the city and incidents of looting are still reported.
Most of Baghdad's hospitals are working at the moment, albeit at much reduced capacity. This is due to missing or damaged equipment as a result of looting and the continued absence of medical staff, who have not been paid since the beginning of the conflict.
Water and sanitation
The water supply remains problematic in Baghdad. However, approximately 1.3 million cubic metres of treated water are now being pumped through the s ystem every day, thanks in no small part to the dedicated staff of the water authorities, pumping stations and treatment plants who have been working throughout the war and without wages for the past two months.
The ICRC has managed to restore operations at Dora water-treatment plant, serving an estimated 70,000 people in Baghdad. The ICRC also provided technical expertise and spare parts to ensure that another key facility, al Wadha water-treatment plant, could be restarted. At the same time the ICRC is continuing to use its fleet of water tankers to provide additional water to parts of Baghdad poorly served by the network, especially in northern and eastern areas of Rusafa. Altogether 40 public distribution sites have been regularly filled with treated water.
The treatment and disposal of sewage remains a major problem in Baghdad, bearing in mind the possible negative impact on public health. The ICRC has assessed a number of sewerage facilities including pumping stations and treatment facilities all over the city. Urgent repair and maintenance work has started at Dora sewerage lifting station and Rustumiya sewerage-treatment plant.
Over the past few days the ICRC team has assisted 15 hospitals and two orphanages with a range of services and necessities such as supplementary drinking water (more than 50,000 one-litre bags delivered), and repairs and servicing of back-up generators and the transportation of fuel. Among the facilities assisted was al Rashad psychiatric hospital, which had been looted and heavily damaged. It received additional water as well as food and items for personal hygiene for the patients. Repairs were also carried out on the plumbing system, toilets and kitchen, and a new generator was installed to provide power for the wards holding patients.
Upon request from both sides, the ICRC continues to facilitate contacts between US forces and the former civil authorities to discuss the immediate requirements and short-term plans for the full restoration of essential services such as water, sewerage, electricity and refuse collection, particularly in low-income suburbs in northern and eastern parts of Baghdad. The provision of these basic services remains the responsibility of the US as the Occupying Power under the fourth Geneva Convention.
Red Cross message serviceOn 20 and 21 April, the delegation collected 264 " safe and well " messages from Baghdad residents addressed to their families abroad. Are you looking for a member of your family? Go to http://www.familylinks.icrc.org on this website.
A flight from the ICRC's office in Kermanshah in Iran, carrying items including more than 600kg of medical equipment, is expected to arrive in Baghdad on 22 April.
BASRA (22 April)
A second visit to Iraqi prisoners of war and civilian internees is scheduled to end today with the final talk with camp authorities. Nearly 7,000 people have been registered during the two visits. The ICRC also collected 67 " safe and well " messages from the internees to family members abroad.
Last week the ICRC in Basra collected 172 Red Cross messages written by civilians for family members abroad.
During an assessment mission to Najaf, Samawa , Diwania and Nasariya (17 to 19 April), the ICRC's medical team identified wheelchairs as one of the main items needed. Otherwise no emergency needs were found except for items such as catheters, analgesics, anaesthetics and dressing material that were already in short supply before the war. The assessment team also noted that for the moment there is still an absence of stable health authorities at governorate level in the areas visited as well as a lack of management at hospital level. This complicates the implementation of projects to assist the medical sector.
Clothes donated by the Bahrain Red Crescent Society have been cleared through customs in Kuwait and over the next few days will be sent to Basra for distribution to hospital patients in the city as well as in Nasariya and Najaf.
ARBIL (covering 19-21 April)
The situation in the Kurdish-controlled towns of Northern Iraq is calm while the security situation in Mosul and Kirkuk appears to have improved slightly.
The ICRC visited and registered 29 POWs held by US forces. During the visit, 28 " safe and well " messages were collected from the POWs.