Red Cross Update 21 May

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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Thursday, May 22, 2003 at 3:29PM :

Iraq Bulletin 21 May 2003
Latest reports from ICRC staff in the field

(covering 11-18 May)


General situation

The night curfew (11pm 6am) imposed by the Coalition forces is still in force in Baghdad.

Following a serious incident on the Baghdad-Kirkuk road, involving a Japanese NGO vehicle (15 bullet-holes in the vehicle, but fortunately no-one was injured), the ICRC decided to suspend its shuttles to Arbil. Various roads to the north, as well as the Amman-Baghdad road, are considered too dangerous and are therefore off-limits for ICRC operations.

Re-establishment of family links

Satphone calls abroad: 2,018
"Safe & Well" (S&W) messages: 353

Medical situation

ICRC medical teams have continued their visits to hospitals and other medical facilities, in order to evaluate their needs. Hospitals still suffer from security problems, lack of transportation for the staff (due to fuel shortages) and power cuts. However, staff in most hospitals have received incentive payments of USD 20.

As a 'one-off' measure to fill the gap until the central drug distribution system is functioning again, the ICRC is making a large stock of pharmaceutical supplies available, to be distributed through the central pharmacy. The measure is coordinated with the Ministry of Health, WHO and other relevant organizations; ICRC will monitor distributions.

A list of other medical materials required is being prepared and will be submitted to national Red Cross / Red Crescent societies with a request for donations.

ICRC medical teams visited 10 hospitals in Baghdad and a further half-dozen in central Iraq. The teams also visited the health directorates in Kerbala and Najaf.

In most hospitals, electricity is working only a few hours each day; for the rest of the time power for vital equipment comes from back-up generators. Most places lack medical supplies and drugs, bedding and fuel.

Primary health care centres were visited at al Takia, al Abara and al Huwaider.

The ICRC's orthopaedic workshop is functioning again, despite extensive looting, and is concentrating on the production of crutches.

Economic security

The staff of al Rashad hospital received 400 hygiene kits from the ICRC, while al Karama hospital received food supplies for a month (oil and macaroni).

Cooperation with the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement

More than 30 Red Cross and Red Crescent societies met in Baghdad on 13 May. The main objectives of the meeting were to give the participants an update on the situation, to sound out their intentions and to plan a coordinated approach to activities in Iraq.

A joint ICRC-Federation team from Baghdad visited the Iraq Red Crescent branches at Kirkuk, Sulaymaniya and Arbil. The ICRC team then continued to Mosul and Dohuk. The branch directors briefed the visitors about their activities, their plans and priorities.

The Iranian Red Crescent provided al Rashad hospital with hygiene parcels.


General situation

The most visible and perhaps most important development this week has been the return of armed policemen to the streets of the southern cities, to help reinforce security.

Protection and Tracing


prisoners of war and civilian internees continue to be released from Um Qasr camp. About 700 people remain held there.

Re-establishment of family links:
Nasiriya - an ICRC team spent a week in the town to enable Iraqis to renew contact with their families abroad, through the use of satellite phones and Red Cross Messages. Helped by 36 Iraq RC volunteers, a phone booth was opened and some 3,000 calls were placed. Lists of people for whom messages have arrived are posted on the Red Crescent office wall.
Amara - an ICRC team spent three days with satellite phones and Red Cross Message facilities. Working with 28 volunteers of the IRCS, the team enabled people in the town to make 1,200 phone calls to their families abroad.

Protection issues arising from the Iran-Iraq war

On 18 May, ICRC staff handed over to Iranian authorities the mortal remains of 45 Iranian soldiers discovered during the recent conflict. At the same time, the ICRC handed over to British forces in Basra the remains of 84 Iraqi soldiers; the British will return the remains to the families. The operation took place at the border between Iran and Iraq.

Medical activities

Cholera - four more cases were confirmed by the laboratory this week, raising the total to 22.

Teams from ICRC Basra visited four primary health centres in the governorate: two of them, that had been looted, were given three months' supply of drugs.

The general hospital in Amara is back to its normal level of activity. Medical assistance brought by ICRC will cover a shortfall in certain specific items.

Water and sanitation

Repairs at Bradiyah water treatment plant continue, and in the meantime water is distributed by tankers to hospitals at Basra and Abu al Kasib. Six ICRC water tankers are now in Basra and will be used to supply parts of al Zubair that were deprived of water due to looting of the pumping station. The ICRC team installed a bladder at the orthopaedic centre (General Hospital) and began delivering water by truck.

Mines / UXO

The ICRC is carrying out a high priority campaign in villages, holding information sessions and distributing posters and leaflets, to make people aware of the risks in areas infested by mines, bombs, rockets and other explosive debris of war. The ICRC has so far visited ten of the 13 southern Iraqi governorates, in order to evaluate the situation.

A training session for Iraq RC volunteers in Basra was attended by 30 people. The ICRC also trained a number of volunteers in victim data collection (visiting hospitals, talking to victims, filling in casualty forms, etc) an essential part of the mine awareness process.


Protection and Tracing

Re-establishment of family links:
Cooperation with Iraq RC branches enabled satellite phone services to start in Mosul (17 May) and Kirkuk (20 May). More than 200 calls have been made so far, to 23 countries.
Iraq RC workers in Mosul and Kirkuk are distributing "Safe & Well" messages brought by ICRC from prisoners of war and civilian internees held at Um Qasr, thus providing a vital link with their families.
In the Dohuk region, some 30 satellite phone calls were made from Telaafar residents to families abroad. One young man was able to contact his family in Iran for the first time in 21 years.

Medical facilities

Telaafar hospital, visited by the ICRC team, now mainly handles emergency cases, due to the shortage of drugs. The main problem is similar to that reported by Sinjar hospital in the same area: because of the lack of fuel, supplies from Mosul have been sharply reduced.

Cooperation with the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement

An ICRC convoy transporting 2,500 food parcels from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent arrived in Iraq for distribution.

-- Sadie
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