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The ICRC in Iraq

01-07-2014 Overview

The ICRC has been in Iraq since 1980, addressing the consequences of violence and conflict. It provides emergency relief to people displaced as a result of fighting, improves access to water and health care, helps vulnerable groups, strengthens services for those with physical disabilities, and visits detainees to monitor their conditions and enable them to maintain contact with their families. It also supports the authorities’ efforts to clarify the fate of people missing from earlier conflicts.

Close contact with the authorities, tribal and community leaders, religious figures, governmental armed and security forces, armed groups and civil society allows the ICRC to operate in violence-prone areas. The ICRC has 822 staff in Iraq, comprising 732 Iraqis and 90 expatriates. Together, they bring assistance and protection to people affected by conflict and violence.

Assisting those affected by conflict

With the recent wave of fighting leading to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, the ICRC works to alleviate their suffering by providing food and essential household items, as well as by improving the availability of water and health care.

Protection of civilians

The ICRC continues to remind all parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL) with regard to the conduct of hostilities and the treatment of people; in particular sparing civilians and civilian structures the effects of hostilities, protecting medical infrastructure and personnel, and ensuring access to medical care for all who need it.

Visiting detainees

The ICRC visits thousands of detainees held by the Iraqi central authorities and the Kurdish regional authorities. It monitors treatment, conditions of detention, access to health care, contact between detainees and families and respect for basic judicial guarantees. The ICRC maintains a confidential dialogue with the authorities with the aim of improving the situation of detainees. The organization donates items such as clothes and bedding, and undertakes water and sanitation projects in places of detention.
Supporting health services

Health services still struggle to meet the needs of the population, especially in conflict-affected areas. The ICRC supports selected primary health-care centres, renovating premises and training staff. It also delivers essential lifesaving medical items and supplies to hospitals and other health facilities in areas affected by violence. The organization also provides training and equipment to 12 physical rehabilitation centres, helping people with disabilities rejoin the community.

Improving infrastructure

Access to clean drinking water remains difficult in much of Iraq. ICRC engineers support the Iraqi authorities in repairing and upgrading water infrastructure, mainly for displaced people and in areas prone to violence.

Helping vulnerable groups

While continuing to help displaced persons, the ICRC is restoring livelihoods and enabling people to regain or maintain their financial independence. ICRC assistance focuses on helping poor farmers boost production, providing emergency assistance to internally displaced people and refugees, and providing grants to vulnerable women in charge of households and to disabled people so they can start small businesses.

Clarifying the fate of missing persons

The ICRC supports the authorities’ efforts to clarify the fate of the tens of thousands still unaccounted for since the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the 1990-1991 Gulf War. It facilitates dialogue and information exchange between the parties, provides forensic training, renovates facilities and facilitates joint exhumations and the handover of remains.

Communicating on humanitarian issues

The ICRC encourages the media to report on humanitarian issues by publishing fact sheets, brochures, newsletters and news releases, and highlights the need to protect civilians, health personnel and medical facilities. Military personnel, religious scholars, tribal leaders and students deepen their knowledge of the ICRC and international humanitarian law through briefings and presentations.

Cooperating with other organizations

The Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) and the ICRC work together to respond to the needs of violence-affected people. The ICRC trains and coaches IRCS staff and volunteers on how to assess needs in an emergency and supports the IRCS in establishing a specialized pool of disaster management trainers. The IRCS has also started to establish emergency response teams, which  the ICRC supports through training on first aid and dead body management. The ICRC also donates relief items to reinforce the response capacity of the IRCS. Technical support, in terms of both donations and training, is also provided for mine-risk awareness programmes and dissemination of international humanitarian law.



Baghdad, Ministry of Health orthopedic centre. The ICRC provides training and material for the production of prostheses.
© ICRC / M.Greub / iq-e-00818

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