Posted by Sadie from D007085.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu (18.104.22.168) on Sunday, June 15, 2003 at 12:07PM :
Iraq bulletin - 12 June 2003
Latest reports from ICRC staff in the field (covering 2-6 June).
FOCUS ON WATER AND SANITATION ACTIVITIES
Even before the war started in Iraq, the country and its water infrastructure and services were outdated and decaying owing to over 11 years of embargo, which had serious consequences for the availability of drinking water and disposal of waste water. The direct damage caused at the outbreak of the war to key water and sewage plants (the Qanat station in Baghdad, the Wafa al Qaed water plant in Basra, etc.), which was later aggravated by deliberate acts of vandalism and destruction, left some installations beyond immediate repair. In addition, the disruption of the electricity supply prevented many water and sewage installations from functioning (and thus clean water from reaching and being evacuated from houses), placing people at risk from water-related diseases. Today, prolonged power cuts mean that water stations are still dependent on back-up generators. The latter allow water facilities to function, but not at full capacity and not continuously. Despite some improvements since early May, most water and sewage structures are not fully operational, especially given that they have to cope with the rising temperatures of the Iraqi summer.
One of the first actions carried out by the ICRC teams in Iraq during the war was to do repair work on water and back-up power structures (generators). For a few weeks, while active hostilities were still going on, the ICRC mobilized some 70 engineers, technicians and support staff to secure at least minimum support for medical structures and water treatment plants in the main urban centres (Baghdad, Basra, etc). With the aim of saving lives and averting public health disasters, the main and immediate objectives for the ICRC teams were to secure the supply of drinking water and urgently needed items (including oxygen, cooking gas and fuel) to hospitals, to repair the damage done to priority health structures and to supply water to areas where the piping system was not functioning. Such immediate measures were coordinated as much as possible with the Iraqi authorities concerned (former government technical departments and municipal bodies) and the Occupying Powers and related agencies.
With an increased team and budget (16.5 million Swiss francs), the ICRC repaired water structures in 49 locations throughout the country, thus restoring or improving drinking water supply and sanitation services (sewage, for example) for some 3.5 million people. In addition, emergency repair work was carried out in 62 health infrastructures, especially in the main urban centres and health care centres in rural districts: some 14,000 patients were concerned by this work.
In parallel, the ICRC facilitated dialogue between the Occupying Powers (mainly the units in charge of utility rehabilitation) and the former Iraqi civil authorities (water boards in various cities, Ministry of Health, etc.) in order to identify the immediate requirements for restoring basic public services in the country.
Today, as a result of power related problems, a growing number of urban centres are frequently without a supply of tap water or any other drinking water, sometimes for several days at a time. In rural areas, most water structures only work a few hours a day, often by pumping raw water directly from the river to the distribution networks, as chlorine for disinfecting water is becoming scarce (only 10 days' stock of chlorine is available in the governorates of Diyala, Qadissiya, Najaf and Karbala, for example). Fifteen rented tankers and three ICRC tankers are delivering water on a daily basis to some 15 sites in Baghdad where all other means of accessing clean water are cut off. Spare parts, equipment and chemicals (formerly imported under the oil-for-food programme) must be allowed into the country again if a public health crisis is to be avoided.
Summary of what the ICRC's water and sanitation teams did in Iraq (April-May 2003):
conducted emergency repair work in hospitals (two in northern Iraq, two in Baghdad);
installed water storage bladders in hospitals (26 in Baghdad, 16 in Basra);
repaired water treatment plants, and pumping and sewage stations;
distributed bags of clean water to hospitals;
maintained generators and water facilities in hospitals;
installed water distribution stations in poorly served areas;
delivered water by truck to poorly served areas;
delivered oxygen and gas bottles to hospitals;
organized water/sanitation connections and distributed water to camps for displaced people.
BAGHDAD AND CENTRAL IRAQ
A curfew from 11 pm to 6 am called by the coalition forces is still in place in Baghdad, although the ICRC maintains stricter rules (8 pm to 6 am).
Tension remains high in certain areas, particularly in Tikrit, Ramadi and Falluja. The use of small arms and hand grenades against the coalition forces or at checkpoints has been reported. To the best of the ICRC's knowledge, no specific threat has ever been formulated against international or non-governmental organizations. On the other hand, some organizations have been exposed to banditry on certain land routes.
Detention/people deprived of their freedom
The ICRC visited detention sites in and around Baghdad, where delegates saw some 1,000 detainees. These visits are continuing.
Restoring contact between family members/Red Cross messages
The ICRC and the Iraq Red Crescent Society (IRCS) organized a seminar attended by 13 (out of 18) IRCS branches to reiterate the roles of the two organizations regarding re-establishing family links, tracing missing persons and distributing Red Cross messages.
The ICRC medical teams continued their visits to hospitals and medical structures, with the aim of providing them with emergency ad hoc supplies and obtaining a clear and global picture of the hospitals' coping capacities, their needs and how they were affected by the conflict. Some hospitals are starting to provide numbers of the cases they treated during the war (number of persons admitted, number of deaths, etc.). Salaries and/or incentives (20 US dollars) have been paid to most medical staff (except in some institutions).
Many medical structures are receiving supplies from the pharmaceutical company Kidamia (in Babel, Karbala and Najaf, for example), although the Iraqi company does not always cover all their needs. Some hospitals report that they are running out of food stocks or are unable to provide their patients with a varied diet. In addition, the usual problems prevail: lack of water, power, fuel, oxygen, cooking gas and, in several hospitals, problems of general hygiene.
Several hospitals report incoming patients who have been wounded by unexploded ordnance, cluster bombs or landmines.
The ICRC has also delivered drugs and medical supplies (and medical literature for some) to the following medical facilities:
in Baghdad: Ibn al Khateeb hospital, al Alawiya pediatric hospital, al Zaafaraniya general hospital, al Kadhmiya;
in the central regions of Iraq: Baquba general hospital (Diyala governorate), al Murjan, Babel and al Hilla hospitals (all in Babel governorate); al Suweira and al Azizeh hospitals (both in al Wasit governorate).
Meanwhile, mobile ICRC workshops are carrying out maintenance work on generators in hospitals, fixing broken windows, lighting, sewage and cooling systems, and installing and repairing air conditioning systems.
BASRA AND SOUTHERN IRAQ
Detention/people deprived of their freedom
Eight Iraqi prisoners who had been detained in Kuwait were released and returned to Iraq. Families of those living in Basra had been informed and the reunion was very emotional, especially for two of the prisoners, who were seeing their families for the first time in 12 years.
Meanwhile, an ICRC team distributed Red Cross messages and collected replies from prisoners held at Umm Qasr.
Restoring family links/Red Cross messages
An ICRC team spent five days in Samawa to provide residents with the means to contact their relatives abroad, using satellite phones or Red Cross messages. In cooperation with the local IRCS branch, some 2,000 phone calls were made to 34 different destinations, the United States being the most popular.
The mortal remains of a number of Iraqis who had been wounded and sent to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and had subsequently succumbed to their injuries, were brought back to Basra international airport. The ICRC had previously informed the families of the deceased and organized their entry at the airport. Representatives from the Red Crescent Society for the United Arab Emirates returned the bodies to the families.
boy's orphanage: 25 food parcels/25 mattresses
displaced people at Shalamsh border: 4 food parcels, 4 kitchen sets, 4 hygiene kits, 4 tents, 320 kg of wheat flour, 4 stoves, 20 blankets and 8 jerrycans
home for elderly people: 1,440 kg of wheat flour, 36 food parcels, 7 hygiene kits, 8 kitchen sets
al Zubayr hospital: 10 tonnes of wheat flour
ex-military hospital, Basra: 10 tonnes of wheat flour
port hospital, Basra: 2 tonnes of wheat flour
leprosy patients, Amara: 4 food parcels, 4 hygiene kits, 2 kitchen sets
Amara hospital and Amara al Zahrawi surgical hospital: drugs and medical supplies
Explosive remnants of war (ERWs)
An ICRC team provided training to 25 IRCS volunteers in Amara on presentation techniques (to children and adults) on the dangers of explosive remnants of war, and to six of them on victim data collection.
With this session, 123 volunteers from the four southern governorates now have the skills to make basic presentations on the subject, to collect data and to report their findings.
Four reports on new ERW danger areas were handed over to UN-AMACT (Area Mine Action Coordination Team), making a total of 27 such reports handed over in May.
The situation has been relatively calm in Kirkuk city for the past week, although the Kirkuk-Mosul and Kirkuk-Tikrit roads are still not safe. The situation in Mosul is also calm during the day, although looting, thefts and other such incidents still take place at night.
Restoring contact between family members/Red Cross messages
Cooperation between the ICRC and the IRCS in Mosul and Kirkuk is continuing on the distribution and collection of Red Cross messages. The ICRC also visited Muqabel camp for the internally displaced and distributed Red Cross messages addressed to some of the camp's inmates.
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