Iraq bulletin – 6 May 2003
06-05-2003 Operational Update
Latest reports from ICRC staff in the field.
(covering 30 April to 4 May)
BAGHDAD AND CENTRAL IRAQ
Security is still a major concern. An explosion in a fuel depot reportedly killed 6 people in Baghdad on 1 May. Tension in Feluja is still very high and various incidents have been reported on the road between Jordan and Baghdad, and on the way between Ramadi and the border. Looting is still going on in the city and gunfire continues to be heard at night.
Iraq has been divided into three parts, under US, UK and Polish control. This comes while efforts to set up a multinational peacekeeping force are under way.
Medical situation / Baghdad hospitals
Visits to hospitals are ongoing. On 30 April and 1 May, the ICRC visited the following hospitals: al Karama, al Karkh, Adnan, al Mansour (paediatric), Ibn al Nafis, al Khadima, al Madaen general hospital, Mahmoudia general hospital, and al Qadissiya, and distributed medical supplies (including gowns, surgical masks, surgical caps and surgical drapes).
On 3 and 4 May the ICRC visited al Rashad (target of another looting attempt), Ibn Rushd psychiatric hospital, al Khadima (injection materials, gloves, adrenaline and crutches were supplied), and al Qadissiya (materials for injection, iv fluids, suture equipment, anaesthetics and crutches were distributed).
In addition, joint medical and water/sanitation teams are visiting different areas around central Baghdad. On a visit to Sebba Qusoor district, north of Baghdad, on 2 May, a lack of safe water was the main problem identified (leading to an increased incidence of diarrhoea). Glaring needs were also identified with regard to war-wound infections and the psychological trauma of local children following the war.
Water and sanitation
Power is still reduced to roughly 40 % (390 MW) of pre-war production and distribution, for a variety of reasons ranging from repairs on lines to lack of coordination between Baghdad and the regions. Nevertheless, the supply of electricity is on the increase and on 3 May reached its maximum since 9 April: 600 MW were produced. However, full production does not mean full operation for water-treatment and pumping facilities. The absence of a stable supply of electricity is preventing the water-treatment plants from functioning normally, leaving hospitals in turn unable to operate satisfactorily.
Cooperation with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society
A joint ICRC and Federation team visited Samawah, Amara, and Diwanaya and Babel branches of the IRCS. Amara branch was totally looted. Even the electric wires and light bulbs were stolen. The branch director and staff had been able to save the vehicle and some office equipment. Diwanaya was partly looted. Samawah and Babel were spared thanks to branch staff and volunteers.
BASRA AND SOUTHERN IRAQ
Although Basra seems to be returning to normal, with shops and even some restaurants now open, reports of rape, murder, assault, armed robbery, carjacking and looting of public and private buildings continue to arrive at the ICRC office. A water pumping station has been looted, thus jeopardizing the water supply in Basra. UN agencies and NGOs are settling in town.
Restoring contact between family members
Efforts to restore contact between family members are ongoing through joint ICRC/IRCS activities (110 Red Cross messages and some 600 satellite phone calls a day on average).
Ten wheelchairs were delivered to Basra teaching hospital, and medical supplies (including sutures and burns kit) went to Basra general hospital.
Water and sanitation
Repairs by the ICRC brought power back to al Muahad and Aqua 25 stations, both of which had been operating on generators since a power breakdown on 29 April. One other station was looted, once more reinforcing the need for effective measures to be introduced in order to ensure security at water stations.
The ICRC team has surveyed 43 water stations out of 101. The main problem encountered so far is the lack of chlorine and the low competence of caretakers over the past years. The majority of the stations are not working at full capacity, even where power has been restored.
Explosive remnants of war
The problem of unexploded ordnance is very serious: on 1 May, three men were killed and five injured while playing football in Basra. On 30 April, 1 and 3 May, the ICRC organized safety briefings on unexploded ordnance at the IRCS premises in Nasiriya (for 70 branch staff and volunteers) Samawah (for 50 volunteers) and in Amara (for 35 branch staff and volunteers).
Assessment visits were paid to Biyara and Khurmal on 28 April to evaluate the situation and follow up on water and sanitation projects. Damaged houses in Biyara are already under repair, and tents provided for displaced families stand empty. In Mosul security is gradually improving but people still feel unsafe, especially at night. Looting is still going on, but on a smaller scale. The number of humanitarian actors in northern Iraq has increased in the past few days.
In Arbil on 28 April, 22 high-ranking officers of the Iraqi army, who surrendered to the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) at the beginning of April, were returned home under the auspices of the KDP authorities. The ICRC carried out private interviews with all the officers in order to make sure they wanted to return and to be able to check their safe arrival home at a later stage.
Restoring contact between family members
On 1 May, four Red Cross messages from Iraqi POWs (from the Iran-Iraq war) were forwarded to their families in Kirkuk. These families had not had any contact or news from their loved ones for 15 years. Four replies were collected during the same field trip for the same POWs. In addition, one " safe and well " message from an Iraqi POW detaine d by the US in Arbil was distributed to his family in Kirkuk. A reply to this message was distributed back to the POW on 3 May.
In Dohuk all hospitals are functioning normally. The major concern is the interruption of supplies: they have stocks for 2 to 3 months only.
In Arbil the ICRC orthopaedic centre was reopened on 15 April and the workload is back to normal. New amputees are coming to the centre: there is an influx of patients from Kirkuk governorate who could not make their way to the centre before. Since the reopening of the centre 27 casts have been made and 9 repairs carried out.
ICRC health teams visited hospitals and health centres in the north to evaluate the situation (in and around Khurmal and Biyara).
In Mosul, 50 full food rations for 2 months were distributed to 26 people in the Elderly Home of Mosul.
FROM THE ICRC IN IRAN
A first convoy transporting donations from the Iran Red Crescent Society arrived in Baghdad on 3 May from Kermanshah (15 bladder water tanks, 500 purification kits, 500 parcels containing items for personal hygiene, 30 bed sets (comprising sheets and blankets), 30 wheelchairs, 500 surgical gloves and 500 towels). This donation responds to the needs identified by the ICRC in Iraqi medical facilities.
The ICRC delivered 1 war-wounded kit and 18 boxes of emergency health kits to the main (400-bed) hospital in al Kut on 4 May. One war-wounded kit was also delivered to the emergency and orthopaedic hospital in al Kut.