Iraq: ICRC operations in 2004
31-12-2004 Operational Update
In 2004, the ICRC carried out a wide range of humanitarian activities on behalf of the Iraqi people, despite widespread and persistent violence across the country. Security remains the main concern both for the population at large and for the humanitarian actors trying to help them.
The US-led coalition that toppled Saddam Hussein in April 2003 announced in late June 2004 that it had transferred power to an interim Iraqi government, pending national elections in late January 2005.
However, violence continued with armed opposition groups in regular confrontation with the Multi-National Forces in Iraq and the Iraqi military and security forces. Civilians accounted for many of the casualties during the hostilities that primarily took place in densely populated areas.
In view of the direct attacks on the ICRC in 2003 and of the general security situation in Iraq, the organisation was forced to adopt an exceptional modus operandi there.
In 2004, the organization maintained an operational platform through the presence of over 400 national staff supported by a team of expatriate colleagues operating from permanent bases in northern Iraq as well as through regular missions from Amman in Jordan to Baghdad and Basrah.
A prime focus for the ICRC in Iraq is to visit those detained by the Multi-National Forces in Iraq and the Iraqi authorities. These visits are made to monitor conditions of detention and treatment of detainees, and to enable them to re-establish contact with their families through Red Cross Messages.
During 2004, ICRC delegates made regular visits in central and southern Iraq to four places of detention run by the Multi-National Forces and one place of detention under the responsibility of the Iraqi interim government. ICRC delegates regularly registered the persons detained and informed the families of their situation. At the end of 2004, the ICRC was visiting more than 7,300 detainees held by the Multi-National Forces and nearly 1,800 persons detained by the Iraqi interim government. Over 24,600 Red Cross Messages were exchanged between these detainees and their families.
In northern Iraq, the ICRC visited more than 1,200 detainees held in 26 places of detention under the responsibility of the local Kurdish authorities. Around 2,150
Red Cross messages were exchanged between the detainees and their families.
During the above visits, essential items such as hygiene kits and clothing were distributed.
Following every visit, the ICRC reported its observations concerning the treatment of detainees and the conditions of detention directly to the responsible detaining authorities and requested improvements to be made if and where necessary.
In addition to its visits to places of detention, the ICRC continued to remind all parties to the conflict of their obligation to respect international humanitarian law. Notably, it called on those involved to protect civilians and care for the injured.
Working within the limits imposed by the security situation, the ICRC strived to provide assistance in the form of medical supplies and equipment to hospitals treating the wounded and essential aid to families displaced by the hostilities.
Throughout the year, medical and surgical supplies were supplied to he alth facilities all over Iraq to cope with the influx of wounded resulting from the ongoing hostilities. These included anaesthetics, blood bags and intravenous fluids, dressing materials, drains and sutures.
The ICRC provided to health facilities basic equipment such as beds, linen, wheelchairs and patient-trolleys. Three ambulances were delivered to medical facilities in Ramadi, Najaf and Kirkuk.
The organization also provided support to seven orthopaedic centres in Iraq, which fitted around 640 people with an artificial limb and provided more than 2,200 orthoses (a device that supports the spine or a limb). Many other patients received repairs to existing limbs or devices.
To help people displaced by outbreaks of fighting in Najaf and Fallujah, the ICRC distributed more than 25,000 food parcels, almost 30,000 blankets 5,000 hygiene kits, 1,500 kitchen sets and thousands of jerry cans.
In addition, the ICRC also provided the Iraqi Red Crescent Society with relief items to assist victims of violence in Fallujah, Najaf, Sadr City, Samara and Talafar. The relief items included more than 17,000 blankets, 56,000 jerry cans, 690 tents, 2,500 stoves and 4,000 food parcels.
The escalation of violence resulted in a shortage of water and sanitary facilities in many areas, with the ICRC responding to the needs of thousands of displaced families affected in Fallujah, Talafar and Najaf.
To address the basic needs of the population, a team of ICRC engineers, architects and technicians support local water boards and, in some cases, carry out direct repairs to local water production and treatment plants.
At the same time, the implementation of some mid to long-term projects such as the repair of sewage plants, hospitals and primary heath care centres was continued. In 2004 around 30 of these projects were identified and initiated. This is in addition to 15 similar schemes that were completed in 2003.
The ICRC has also continued to transport water to communities in need. Throughout the year, 500,000 litres per day were distributed at more than 60 sites in the Iraqi capital. Until August, 560,000 litres per day had been supplied to Snoni/Khanasor and 10,000 litres per day have been provided to hospitals in Basrah since April.
The Iraqi Red Crescent Society, with its nationwide network of branches and volunteers, continues to be an essential partner in many ICRC operations in Iraq.
As well as supporting the Iraqi Red Crescent Society in its response to emergency situations, the ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are helping the National Society to build up its capacities.
In the field of tracing, the ICRC provides technical and financial assistance to IRCS tracing officers, who distribute Red Cross Messages and registration documents for those detained by the authorities.
Through its ICRC-supported mine-risk education programme, the IRCS also contributes to reducing injuries and deaths from explosive remnants of war in Iraq.