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Iraq: ICRC activities in February and March 2009

29-04-2009 Operational Update

After a few months of relative calm, a new wave of bloody violence claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians in Iraq over the past two months, especially in March. The ICRC has been responding to some of the country's most urgent needs.

  ICRC activities in February and March 2009 in Iraq    
    Iraq: ICRC activities in February and March 2009    
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  ©ICRC/S. Suad    
Erbil city. A patient at the ICRC physical rehabilitation centre learning to walk using newly fitted artificial limbs.    
  ©ICRC/H. Y. Gorges / iq-e-00736    
  Near Erbil city. This disabled man received a motorbike from the ICRC to help him earn a living.    
  ©ICRC/J. Hamami    
  Baghdad. The ICRC organized a forensic course for 80 government officials.    
  ©ICRC/K. H. Moder / iq-e-00737    
  Erbil governorate. Military participants in an IHL information session organized by the ICRC.    
  Map showing areas where the ICRC implements water and habitat activities.  

" Indiscriminate attacks continue to leave dozens of people killed or injured on a daily basis despite improvements in the security situation in many parts of Iraq, " said Jakob Kellenberger, the ICRC's president, during a visit to the country from 15 to 20 March – his first since 2003. The aim of Mr Kellenberger's visit last month was to gain a first-hand impression of the humanitarian situation and to meet with senior political and religious leaders.

Determining what happened to people missing as result of armed conflict remains one of the ICRC's priorities in Iraq. During his meetings, the ICRC president encouraged the authorities to press ahead with their efforts to clarify the fate of these missing people.

In March, the ICRC organized a course on forensic anthropology and archaeology for 80 staff of the Medical Legal Institute and the Ministry of Human Rights. " The aim of this course is not only to update participants on technical and scientific tools, " said Andres Patino, an ICRC forensics adviser. " It should also spur them on to serve the community and alleviate the suffering of many families that cannot have closure without knowing what happened to their loved ones. "

At the end of March, the Technical Sub-Committee of the Tripartite Commission met in Kuwait to continue to investigate cases of persons still missing in connection with the 1990-91 Gulf War.

 Reintegrating disabled people into society  

" I am so happy that this motorbike is mine. Now, I can work and feed my family. I simply fee l useful again, " said Hassan Majid, one of the 160 patients benefiting from a programme to help disabled people return to society and rejoin the workforce. The motorbike he received from the ICRC in February allowed him to go to the market and sell chicken.

The psychological impact of a sudden disability is usually devastating not only for the individual but also for his family. Some 65% of the patients in the programme are the main breadwinners in their families. While physical rehabilitation is the necessary first step towards a return to normality, reintegration into society and the working environment is equally important.

In February and March, the ICRC monitored the progress of a pilot programme to help disabled persons launched in 2008. " Our aim is to enable these people to regain their financial independence and to be reintegrated into society, " said Aslan Tukhuzhev, the ICRC delegate in charge of the programme in Erbil. " A physical disability is not only a handicap in itself, but very often it also hampers a person's ability to earn a living and support his family. "

The ICRC helps disabled people get back on their feet economically by providing livestock (in 53% of the cases), supplies for small businesses such as barber shops (32%) or for crafts such as tailoring (14%), or seed and tools for agriculture (1%).

 Supporting physical rehabilitation centres  

The ICRC has made its quarterly donation to eight physical rehabilitation centres and one crutch workshop run by the Ministry of Health. The donation included most of the items needed to produce quality prostheses, orthoses and crutches for physically disabled people from all over Iraq.

The technical institute for prosthetists and orthotists in Baghdad, run by the Ministry of Higher Educati on, also receives regular support from the ICRC. Under the guidance of their teachers, the institution's 40 students manufacture orthopaedic devices to meet the needs of actual patients.

 Providing emergency assistance for explosion victims  

In response to the numerous explosions that caused many civilian casualties in February and March, the ICRC delivered more than five tonnes of emergency supplies to hospitals to help them cope with the mass casualties. Al Musayab General Hospital and Al Hashimiya General Hospital in Babil governorate, Abu Ghraib General Hospital and Al Imam Ali General Hospital in Baghdad governorate, and Kalar General Hospital in Suleimaniya governorate received medical disposables and drugs sufficient to treat 250 wounded persons.

Dressings, sutures and infusion supplies were also delivered to Kalar General Hospital in Suleimaniya and to Jalawla General Hospital in Diyala governorate.

 Improving water supplies and health care  

The ICRC is continuing its efforts to improve water supplies and health care. The authorities have made significant efforts in these areas, but more work is required to ensure that basic needs are met. The scale of the needs exceeds the emergency aid the ICRC can provide.

During the past two months, the ICRC:

  • carried out work to improve the water supply for 3,500 people in Aqra village, Dohuk governorate, in response to the drought;

  • drilled a well 200 metres deep, supplied and installed a complete set of submersible pumps and built an op eration room in Al-Mnizla village water station, serving 4,000 inhabitants in Kirkuk governorate;

  • drilled a borehole, built an operation room, and supplied and installed a submersible pump and chlorinators in Azadi area water station, serving 2,000 inhabitants in Diyala governorate, and also connected the entire installation to a power line;

  • supplied electrical spare parts to Najaf boosting station, Najaf governorate;

  • supplied and installed three pumps serving 34,000 inhabitants in Al-K'allak boosting station, Muthana governorate;

  • supplied new submersible pumps with starters, to serve around 3,000 people, for installation by the Directorate of Water.

In hospitals and primary health-care centres, the ICRC:

  • upgraded the water storage capacity, improved the sanitation system and electrical installations and built a new incinerator both in Al-Hatmiyah primary health-care centre, which treats about 40 patients per day and serves some 10,000 inhabitants, and in Yathrib primary health-care centre, which receives 300 patients per day and serves 80,000 inhabitants, in Balad district, Salahaddine governorate;

  • supplied and installed five new walk-in mortuary refrigerators with a 60-corpse capacity and two generators in the Medical Legal Institute in Baghdad;

  • upgraded the electrical systems, supplied basic furniture and carried out other improvements in Albu Hayat, Al-Haqlaniyah, Aloos and Al-Hasa primary health-care centres, which together treat 270 patients per day, in Haditha district, Al Anbar governorate.

 Clarifying what happened to missing people  

In Kuwait, at the end of March, the ICRC chaired the 59th meeting of the Technical Sub-Committee of the Tripartite Commission, investigating cases of persons still missing in connection with the 1990-91 Gulf War. The Tripartite Commission, set up in 1991, is composed of Iraq, Kuwait and four members of the 1991 Coalition (France, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States). Its Technical Sub-Committee was established in 1994 to allow the same parties to work on a practical, case-by-case basis.

Out of a total of 1,431 missing-person cases treated within the Commission framework, 304 have been resolved, including 66 involving Iraqi nationals.

The ICRC urged the parties to enhance the search for substantive information on all unresolved cases, stressing the need to put an end to the anguish of families still awaiting information on what has happened to their loved ones.


 Visiting detainees  

The ICRC regularly visits detainees to assess their treatment and conditions of detention. In February and March, ICRC delegates visited more than 10,300 detainees in nine detention places under the authority of the Iraqi government:

  • Al Rusafa, Kademiya and Harithya in Baghdad, Maaqal and Mina in Basrah, and Fort Suse in Suleimaniya, under the authority of the Ministry of Justice;

  • Basra Operational Command, under the authority of the Ministry of Defence;

  • Al Shamali Police Station in Ramadi, under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior;

  • Tobji Juvenile Correctional Centre, in Baghdad, under the authority of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

In early February, the ICRC carried out a visit to the US internment facility at Camp Bucca, in southern Iraq.

In the three governorates of northern Iraq, the ICRC visited more than 1,960 detainees in seven places of detention.

The ICRC continued to cover the travel fees of families visiting their detained relatives in Camp Bucca. In February and March, the families of more than 9,600 detainees benefited from this aid.

The ICRC, together with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, also distributed 28,000 Red Cross messages between detainees and their families within and outside Iraq.

In addition, the ICRC arranged for the repatriation of an Afghan national after he was released from custody by the Kurdish authorities.

 Spreading knowledge of international humanitarian law  

The ICRC carried on its activities promoting compliance with international humanitarian law among armed and security forces in Iraq, which has been party to the Geneva Conventions since 1956. The aim is to remind all weapon bearers of their obligation to spare those not, or no longer, taking part in hostilities.

The ICRC has been carrying out its humanitarian activities in Iraq without interruption since 1980.

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