While the security situation in Iraq has slowly but steadily improved, there are many humanitarian needs that still have to be met. The ICRC has been improving its ability to do so. Magne Barth, the outgoing head of the ICRC delegation in Iraq, explains.
What is the situation in Iraq today and what are the ICRC’s priorities?
Iraq still faces a lot of challenges. The level of violence linked to the conflict is slowly decreasing, but its cost remains high in terms of civilian casualties. Central Iraq and Baghdad, especially, remain volatile, unpredictable and often dangerous due to acts of violence that still claim the lives of tens of persons every month. Meanwhile, the political process is still facing a lot of obstacles.
The ICRC is expanding its humanitarian activities cautiously but deliberately. Our priority at the ICRC is to remain focussed on the areas and people most affected by the conflict and other violence. This means that we have to further expand our humanitarian work in the disputed territories and in the belt around Baghdad, giving priority to women heading households, physically disabled people, primary health in rural areas, displaced people and others who are not getting the services they are entitled to. The issue of missing persons continues to be one of our priorities.
Furthermore, in line with our mandate, our work in behalf of detainees will continue to focus on conditions of detention and issues of treatment. The ICRC has generally good access, and this is an area in which we can talk to the authorities on how to improve compliance with international standards where necessary.
As the country develops its great economic potential, the ICRC has scaled back and focused its assistance services. Nevertheless, we will continue to reach out to vulnerable groups and areas, and to provide the authorities with technical advice on how essential services can be improved. Increasingly, the ICRC is running medium- and long-term projects to help people make a living. The groups concerned include, for instance, women who are heading households, people with physical disabilities and displaced persons.
How do you see the situation on the Turkish and Iranian borders? What is the ICRC doing for the people affected?
A new US estimate of the number of Iraqis killed seven years after the US-led invasion serves as a reminder that civilians are dying on a daily basis in Iraq, writes Salah Hemeid
Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s famous quotation apparently justifying the deaths of half a million Iraqi children as a result of the Washington- backed and UN-imposed sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s has often been remembered as a cold-blooded assertion of US policy objectives.
The aphorism came to mind again last week when US media reported that the United States had finally released its first official compilation of data on Iraqi casualties, more than seven years after its invasion of the country.
The report, posted on the US Central Command website in July, drew little notice until last Thursday, when media outlets published details showing that 63,185 civilians and 13,754 members of the Iraqi security forces had been killed from early 2004 to August 2008.
It is not clear why the figures did not include casualties from the immediate aftermath of the US-led invasion in 2003, or from the period after August 2008. It is not clear either how the data were compiled and using what methodology.
The figures seem to represent a "policy engineered" anti-climax as the Obama administration, facing a mid- term election challenge, tries to bring an end to America’s misadventure in Iraq.
The number of Iraqis killed during the US-led invasion and its aftermath has long been hotly debated, estimates ranging from fewer than 100,000 to more than a million.
Knowing how these latest US figures were arrived at would speak volumes about how the United States is faring as it prepares to exit from Iraq.
The casualty figures released by Washington are lower than those from Iraqi government sources. Last year, the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights reported that 85,694 Iraqis, including military and police personnel, had been killed from the beginning of 2004 through to October 2008.
In January 2008, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 151,000 deaths had taken place in the country due to the violence, with a 95 per cent confidence estimate of between 104,000 and 223,000 from March 2003 through to June 2006. The figures were based on the results of an Iraq family health survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a respected US journal.
Another estimate from the Iraq Body Count, a non- governmental organisation based in Britain that uses media accounts, has put the number of civilian dead in Iraq at 47,668 during the same period as the WHO study. The group’s latest figures for civilian deaths from violence in the country until September 19 2010 stood at between 98,252 and 107,235.
A 2006 survey in The Lancet, a British medical journal, estimated that more than 600,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the war, a figure more than 10 times higher than other estimates at the time.
Iraq has not officially reacted to any of the studies, though many Iraqis have rejected the new US figures on the number of civilian deaths in the conflict, saying that they are well below the actual numbers who have died.
The numbers are misleading, critics say, because they are not based on a well- defined methodology dealing with all violence-related deaths, including assassinations and in operations conducted by the US military.
Estimates of casualty figures during the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq have been controversial because of the high political stakes involved and the possibility of manipulation aimed at swaying public opinion. The recent report was prompted by a Freedom of Information Act request from the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
Scepticism has arisen about these latest figures not only because of possible discrepancies and the mysterious standards used to establish the magnitude of the casualties, but also because the parties involved have been reluctant to tell the truth about this human tragedy.
A fundamental question is why the US military, which bears primary responsibility for the conflict, failed to address the issue start from the start and why it did not keep accurate records on the victims of the invasion and occupation.
The military’s apparent incapacity to provide statistics about the causalities of US air bombardments and other related operations is a real and pressing concern.
Another question of concern is why the US media, omnipresent in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, has not capitalised on its high standards of professionalism to gather accurate data about the human tragedy in Iraq.
The Associated Press kept a record for the period from 28 April 2005 to 30 September 2010 listing some 49,416 deaths.
Yet, even more disturbing than these US failures has been the failure by successive Iraqi governments to establish an efficient process of data collection to register the deaths of Iraqi citizens and to compensate their families.
Failure to collect data and dodgy statistics are not the only problems. There is also the problem of how to count deaths that are directly related to the war and occupation, separating them from deaths as a result of violence in the country.
Absent from the debate is any explanation of the humanitarian crisis that has struck Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion, including increasing poverty, unemployment, the deterioration of health services and the destruction of the country’s ecological system.
Statistics such as those released by the US military have also largely ignored Iraqi fatalities caused by a lack of clean drinking water and a breakdown in utilities.
Humanitarian agencies like the International Committee of the Red Cross have warned that the country’s healthcare facilities face grave shortages of staff and supplies, with the water, sewage and electricity infrastructure being in critical condition.
Rates of cancer, leukemia and brain tumours, widely believed to have been caused by US weaponry, have been on the rise, some research suggesting that they rival those reported among survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The US military’s report on the death toll in Iraq comes at a time when US President Barack Obama has reached his lowest ratings in US opinion polls ahead of crucial mid-term elections next month.
The release of the statistics while Obama embarks on a campaign to drum up support for Democratic Party candidates cannot be a coincidence.
By publishing a limited number of casualties in Iraq, the Obama administration may be hoping that it can go ahead with its policy of "turning the page" in Iraq, ending the US military presence in the country by the end of next year.
Exiting from Iraq would benefit the Democratic Party, whose president vowed to end the legacy of the Republican Party and its president in Iraq.
If all goes to plan, Iraq will no longer be front-page news in America, as US soldiers pack up to leave in order to help Democrats achieve some sort of hoped-for victory in next month’s elections.
However, the very day this article was sent to print, a spate of bomb attacks across Iraq killed and wounded many people, serving as proof that the threat of death remains a part of daily life in the country.
If Albright’s idea that the price paid by Iraqi civilians for US policy "is worth it" can serve as any sort of reminder in this sad chapter of Iraq’s history, then it should be that the US-led invasion has turned into a humanitarian tragedy, as well as an American national predicament.
The beginning of 2010 was marred by acts of violence that claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians, mainly in Baghdad, the central governorates and Najaf. In Mosul, families fled violence and sought refuge in safer areas. Although recent violence-related displacement has been sporadic, there remain some 2.8 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Iraq who had to leave their homes over recent years in search of safety.
Many Iraqis, especially those worst affected by the effects of the conflict and the ongoing violence, such as displaced, elderly and disabled people and women heading households, continued to struggle to feed their families. Their inability to buy enough of the essential goods they require remains a major concern.
Agriculture, formerly an important part of the economy, has been declining for the past decade. Individuals who have lost agricultural machinery to damage, age or disrepair often cannot replace it owing to a lack of financial wherewithal. In addition, the water supply has been hard hit by a failure to properly maintain pumping stations and irrigation and distribution canals, by the unreliable electricity supply and by higher fuel costs. The massive increase in the price of seed and fertilizer, and cheap imports from neighbouring countries, also play a role in making farming difficult, if not impossible, in many parts of Iraq. Many farmers try to survive by cultivating smaller patches of land, but as they are forced to use low-quality supplies the result is often poor harvests. Others have migrated to cities in search of other ways of earning a living.
The situation was exacerbated by the 2008 drought – the worst in the past 10 years – which had an especially severe impact on rain-fed agriculture in central, west-central and some northern parts of the country. In some areas, agricultural production was wiped out. After years of poor rainfalls, pastures were reduced and prices of fodder soared. According to an ICRC survey, breeders were forced to cut down their herds by more than 60 per cent in some parts of the country, which had a drastic effect on their livelihoods. "Before, we used to move to neighbouring districts. Now, everywhere is dry and we lost our crops and animals. How can we go on?," said one local farmer in Ninawa governorate.
For households that have lost their main wage earner, the economic situation is especially hard to endure. Most people who went missing in connection with recent wars or the ongoing violence, and most people behind bars, are adult males – usually breadwinners. The women and children they left behind often became isolated and therefore extremely vulnerable, despite the strong cultural solidarity among Iraqis.
The ICRC is helping the Iraqis who are worst off to cope with their hardships, and Iraqi communities to support themselves unaided. It is distributing seed and fertilizer, and fodder for livestock. In addition, it is vaccinating cattle and cleaning and improving irrigation canals. In 2009 alone, some 195,000 people benefited.
In January and February 2010, according to the ICRC’s own independent assessment carried out by the organization’s staff all over Iraq, more than 20,000 people benefited from its humanitarian assistance:
- almost 15,500 displaced people (families headed by women) in Baghdad, Diyala, Salah Al-Din and Ninawa governorates were given monthly food parcels and hygiene items;
- around 5,400 people recently displaced from Mosul to Hamdanya and Tilkaif received emergency food parcels, rice and ready-to-eat meals;
- over 1,900 farmers in Diyala governorate received 491.5 metric tonnes of urea fertilizer to help them improve their harvest and make their farming sustainable;
- 43 disabled people in Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaimaniya and Ninewa governorates benefited from micro-economic aid enabling them to start small businesses and regain economic self-sufficiency.
The ICRC also endeavoured to respond to other needs of the Iraqi population in January and February.
Providing clean water and sanitation
Access to clean water remains inadequate in several parts of the country. Only 45 per cent of the population, on average, have clean drinking water and 20 per cent proper sewage disposal. ICRC water engineers continue to repair and upgrade water, electrical and sanitation facilities all over Iraq, especially in areas where violence remains a concern, to enhance access for civilians to clean water and to improve the quality of services provided in communities and health-care facilities.
- Baghdad governorate: Samadiya water compact unit for about 20,000 people, Al Mahmodiya General Hospital serving some 400,000 people living in the area, Ibn Al Khateeb Infectious Diseases Hospital, Medico Legal Institute, Tabat al Kurd water boosting station for over 3,500 people and Al Mada’in water treatment plant for 470,000 people (including displaced people) plus three hospitals and eight primary health-care centres.
- Anbar governorate: Heet water treatment plant for 45,000 residents and 250 displaced people, Habbaniya water treatment plant for 30,000 residents and 1,500 displaced people, and Al Qaim Hospital providing health care for around 350,000 area inhabitants.
- Salah Al Din governorate: al Dor clinic and Dijail compact unit supplying water to almost 25,000 people.
Other water-related works were carried out that will benefit nearly 100,000 people in Missan, Diwaniya and Diyala governorates, and in Ninawa governorate where 3,000 inmates held at Badoosh prison will be among those benefiting.
Water was delivered by truck to:
- 4,500 displaced people in Sadr City and 340 in Husseinia and Ma’amil, and in Baghdad Teaching Hospital, all in Baghdad governorate;
- Qalawa Quarter camp in Sulaimaniya, hosting around 360 displaced people. Two damaged tanks of 5,000 litres each have been replaced.
Assisting hospitals and physical rehabilitation centres
Health-care services are still inadequate. In some areas, it is difficult to reach health facilities because of the prevailing lack of security. Iraqi health facilities still benefit from ICRC support. Limb-fitting and physical rehabilitation services are provided by the ICRC to help disabled people reintegrate into the community. In January and February:
- 12 hospitals and three primary health-care centres received medical supplies and equipment;
- 34 doctors and nurses successfully took part in a training course on strengthening emergency services given in Sulaimaniya Emergency Hospital and in Al Sadr Teaching Hospital in Najaf;
- 26 managers working in the field of primary health care in Ninawa, Kirkuk, Erbil and Diyala governorates participated in a forum, held in Erbil, on improving the quality of health care services in rural primary health-care centres;
- two physiotherapists from Najaf, two from Hilla, one from Sulaimaniya and one from Erbil attended a three-week training course in Erbil, where the ICRC runs a physical rehabilitation centre.
Visiting detainees remains a top priority for the ICRC in Iraq. In January and February, ICRC delegates visited detainees held:
- in Fort Suse Federal Prison, Sulaimaniya governorate; in Nasiriya Prison, Thi-Qar governorate; in Mina and Maaqal prisons, Basra governorate;
- in Tasfirat Kirkuk, Emergency Police Station and Juvenile Police Centre; in Assayesh KDP Station, Kirkuk governorate;
- in Brigade 54, 6th Division, Baghdad governorate;
- in six prisons and two police stations in Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniya governorates;
- in Camp Taji (US custody), Baghdad governorate. This was the last visit to the detention facility prior to its handover to Iraqi authorities.
Around 5,200 detainees held in Fort Suse, Chamchamal, Khademiya, Adhala and Amarah prisons received blankets, mattresses and clothes to help them cope with the cold winter season. In Chamchamal Federal Prison, 34 disabled detainees were given crutches as part of a follow-up carried out by ICRC health delegates of health care in the prison.
More than 7,800 Red Cross messages were exchanged between detainees and their families in January and February. In addition, 626 detention certificates were issued to former detainees or internees to make them eligible for social welfare benefits.
Clarifying what happened to missing people
The ICRC supports the authorities in their efforts to clarify what happened to those who went missing in connection with the Iran-Iraq War and the 1990-1991 Gulf War. It also helps train forensic professionals in the identification and management of mortal remains and regularly supplies equipment. In January and February:
- the mortal remains of nine Iranian soldiers were repatriated from Iraq under ICRC auspices;
- the Technical Sub-Committee of the Tripartite Commission, handling cases of persons missing in connection with the 1990-1991 Gulf War, held its 63rd session in Kuwait, which was chaired by the ICRC and attended by representatives from Iraq, Kuwait and the 1990-1991 Coalition (the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Saudi Arabia);
- two days of training by an ICRC forensic specialist were provided for staff of Al Zubair centre to help them better manage the files of thousands of missing persons.
Promoting international humanitarian law
Reminding parties to a conflict of their obligation to protect civilians is a fundamental part of the ICRC’s work. The organization also endeavours to promote international humanitarian law within the civil society. In this framework, a series of presentations were organized for various audiences, which included military personnel, prison staff, students and professors
Cluster bombs can threaten lives and limbs long after they’ve been deployed: 11-year-old Abdul-Ghafar was killed and his two friends lost their legs in an accident five years after their village was bombarded.
During the 2003 conflict in Iraq, the village of Bawa Mahmod, a couple of hundred kilometres north-east of Baghdad in Diyala governorate, was bombarded by cluster submunitions.
Five years later, in May 2008, the explosion of one of these bombs caused the death of 11-year-old Abdul-Ghafar and resulted in his two friends, Hamed and Abas, losing their legs.
The explosion also started a large fire which subsequently detonated several other ‘BLU-97’ cluster munitions. When firefighters began tackling it, one of them was injured by an explosion of another BLU-97.
The incidents took place on Haji Barzan’s land, half of which had been covered by these deadly weapons. “The firefighters asked us to stay away from the fire,” the farmer recalls. “But watching that hero fighting the fire and getting injured because of the cluster munition was like hell for us.”
The sessions included how to identify the various threats, with information on different types of mines and unexploded ordnance.
Two families of internally displaced people currently live on, and farm, Haji Barzan’s land. However, the contamination of 50 per cent of the 125,000 square metres of orchard means that the trees cannot be used.
“After the accident in May 2008, I asked the two families not to enter that part of the land, because it is too dangerous and I didn’t want another accident to take place to anybody,” he explains.
Findings gathered during the Community Liaison visit to Bawa Mahmod were reported to MAG’s Sulimaniyah operations base.
Following this, a MAG Mine Action Team began clearance activities to remove and destroy the dangerous items in Haji Barzan’s land early in 2010.
This will directly benefit more than 500 individuals and enable the land to be used for agricultural production.
Members of MAG Iraq’s Community Liaison team have trained Iraqi charities and youth workers on the dangers of guns, under a new UNICEF-supported project aimed at preventing needless child deaths.
Teachers from 60 schools in Diyala and Kirkuk, staff from Basra-based non-governmental organisations ‘The Humanitarian Women and Family Organisation’, ‘Hadea for Human Rights’ and ‘ISCP’ (Iraqi civil society programme), and youth workers were among the hundreds of Iraqis trained in ‘risk education’ techniques. It is expected at least 12,000 children, parents and youth workers will be safer as a result.
Small arms casualty figures from Iraq are alarming. Although numbers are not available for the whole country, in 2008 the Kirkuk Provincial Department of Health alone recorded 313 deaths and 975 injuries as a result of accidental gunfire.
Children in particular are at risk from guns. Many households own one, so they are easily accessible. Toy guns and weapons are also popular, and accidents have previously happened when a child swaps a pretend weapon for a real one without knowing the dangers.
Mufleh Talouzi, MAG Iraq’s Country Programme Manager, said: “In the 16 years since MAG has been working here our teams have seen too many times how children’s natural curiosity and reduced sense of risk can be deadly. We are really pleased to be working with UNICEF to spread these hard-learned safety messages to regions throughout Iraq, and to the people who need to understand them most.”
UNICEF Iraq Representative, Sikander Khan, stated: “This training is a critical start to raise awareness of how the widespread presence of guns and other light arms in Iraq threaten the safety and lives of Iraqi children. By doing so, we hope needless child deaths will be avoided in the future”.
UNICEF is present in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.
As the Army mourns the death of another bomb disposal specialist, what does it take to do this perilous job?
There is a fundamental principle in the bomb disposal game: never send a person to do a robot’s job.
But in the theatre of war, the use of remote systems to shoot and destroy a device can all too soon become a luxury.
Inaccessible terrain, poor visibility or a shortage of time can restrict their deployment and leave that most treacherous of tasks to a lone, very human operative.
Maj Chris Hunter has defused more than 60 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and thousands of conventional munitions in his 10 years as a counter-terrorist bomb disposal specialist.
"When you walk up to a bomb to neutralise it by hand, the adrenaline is flowing and you go into tunnel vision mode to try to dispel any fear you’ve got. Adrenaline helps," he says. "You’ve got to steady your breathing and can feel the drum beat of your heart of course."
The 36-year-old, who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland between 1997 and 2007, compares his job to an "extreme game of chess".
He describes how the "sophisticated" bomb makers can lure you in with one device only to target you with a second.
"There’s a tremendous sense of vulnerability… you’re considering where they may have placed a second device and whether a sniper has you in his cross-hairs… you’ve got to think about all these possibilities."
There are broadly two types of bomb disposal specialist: Royal Engineers, who deal with conventional weapons, and those in the Royal Logistic Corp (RLC), who tackle the improvised devices.
Ask what they have in common, and you’ll hear intelligence, a love of measured risk, and the ability to problem solve and be analytical and logical.
Operators go through a rigorous training schedule – five years for the RLC – to weed out those who cannot cope sufficiently with pressure.
Candidates undergo psychological and psychometric – intelligence and personality – evaluations and are only allowed to fail three of the 200 exams set.
‘Every One Divorced’
As well as contending with exhaustion, heavy equipment, searing heat and post-traumatic stress, operators put immense pressure on their families.
Maj Hunter, who has two children, says one difficulty is reintegrating back into society. When you have seen the mass carnage a bomb causes, he says, neutralising a device is one of the most gratifying things you can do.
"On the other hand you feel incredibly guilty," he says. "You’re gambling with your own life and being a bad parent by putting the children and your family as a poor second."
There’s even a joke within the profession that the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Regiment of the Royal Engineers stands for "Every One Divorced".
It’s a gag that won’t be wasted on Colin King, 47, from East Sussex. His 20 years as a bomb disposal specialist has put "great strain" on his family and marriage.
"My best friend [and colleague] was badly injured in Kuwait and I think that was very difficult for my family," he says. My wife knew him and how good he was, he had done everything right… but a set of circumstances led to the accident.
"There was this awful realisation that no matter how good you are at your job, you only have to be unlucky once."
The officer, who commanded mine and ordnance clearance in the Falklands, says the mental strain becomes harder as he gets older.
"I don’t ever become more casual, I’m constantly aware of how much I have to learn. With age I’m more aware of what can go wrong."
"Soldiers tend to feel invulnerable and I felt that way when I was younger, I didn’t wear protective equipment."
Having experimented with explosives when he was a child, he was drawn to the job and has enjoyed the technical challenges.
"The risks are the ones out of my control. The biggest ones in my career were from other people who do dangerous, crazy, unpredictable things. I’m extremely careful who I work with."
On one occasion in Kuwait it was the unforeseen that nearly killed him. Iraqi troops had laid extensive mine defences on a beach with trip wires on stakes poking out of the water. After checking the wind speed and whether tree branches could fall, flying fish began jumping out of the water, forcing him to beat a "tactical retreat".
Soldier of 35 years and military historian Allan Mallinson says there has always been rivalry between the two bomb disposal corps, but among their fellow soldiers, nothing but reverence.
Bomb disposal duties grew out of World War I when the huge amount of explosives on the Western Front led to the first ammunition technical services. By World War II the need for mine detection had developed along with the disposal of enemy devices that emerged out of the technical expertise from the old Army Ordinance Corp.
The first teams were Royal Engineers, who dealt with any enemy devices which stood in the way of British troops, while the Ordinance Corp tackled friendly ammunition, Mr Mallinson says.
Then, as now, there is great reverence for anyone prepared to on the job, says Mr Mallinson.
"They were hugely respected… there was applied intellect and cold courage of an order most of us knew we did not possess."
The programme continued to reduce risk to vulnerable communities and support conflict recovery and rehabilitation by implementing Humanitarian Mine Action and Conventional Weapons Destruction projects in Dahuk, Diyala, Erbil, Kirkuk, Ninewah, and Sulimaniyah governorates:
- MAG teams searched and cleared 491,694 square metres of land using hand, electronic, and visual techniques safely removing and destroying 530 hazardous items. Additional 359,416 sq/m of suspected hazardous land were made safe through demarcation
- Mine Risk Education (MRE) teams delivered 200 MRE sessions reaching 10,374 individuals in 87 villages in Erbil, Diyala, Dahuk, Kirkuk and Sulimaniyah governorates
- Community Liaison teams identified 277 dangerous areas in 112 different villages. Team visited four villages in Erbil and Diyala governorates visiting 83 households to conduct community assessment survey
- Six Conventional Weapons Response teams deployed 116 times to complete 397 tasks during May, destroying 12,191 conventional weapons
- Mechanical assets were used to clear 3,837 sq/m of land and process 6635 cubic metres of contaminated earth
- Mine Detection Dogs were used to clear 12,878 sq/m of low and medium risk parts of three minefields in Mamsha and Qazan Blakh villages in Kirkuk governorate
MAG would like to express gratitude to the following donors to the Iraq programme: Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, US Department of State. Irish Aid. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of the Netherlands, Belgian Government, Stichting Vluchteling, Marshall Legacy Institute and German Government.
For more information on MAG’s Iraq programme and to download the full report in PDF format please go to www.maginternational.org/iraq
The ICRC remained concerned about indiscriminate attacks as civilian lives continued to be claimed in incidents in Baghdad, Ninewa, Mosul, North Diyala, Anbar and Kirkuk. It provided support for emergency medical care and maintained a range of activities benefiting the civilian population.
The month of April saw an increase in bomb attacks and other security incidents in Baghdad, Ninewa, Mosul, North Diyala, Anbar and Kirkuk, where the security situation was shown to be fragile, despite improvements seen in other parts of the country. Civilian lives continued to be claimed in the violence. The ICRC remained concerned about indiscriminate attacks.
In early April, the ICRC facilitated the repatriation of eight foreign nationals released from Fort Suse Federal Prison in Suleimaniya, in the northern part of the country. "It is often difficult for foreigners held in Iraq to return home on their own when they are released," said Laurent Saugy, coordinator for ICRC protection activities in Iraq. "The ICRC helps them return so they can be reunited with their families after their release by the detaining authorities. It does this on purely humanitarian grounds upon the request and with the full consent of the persons concerned." This was the second time since September 2008 that the ICRC had facilitated the repatriation of foreigners released by the Iraqi authorities.
Visiting detainees and restoring family links
The ICRC visits detainees held by the Iraqi authorities and US/Multi-National Force – Iraq in connection with the conflict to monitor their treatment and conditions of detention. In April, the ICRC:
- carried out a visit to the US internment facility at Camp Bucca, southern Iraq, where more than 10,000 people are currently held;
- assessed the treatment of prisoners held in Fort Suse Prison in Suleimaniya, northern Iraq, under the authority of the Iraqi government;
- visited for the first time the Juvenile Correctional Facility of Al-Kharkh, Baghdad, under the authority of the Iraqi government;
- carried out eight visits to other detention centres, mostly in the governorate of Dohuk.
The ICRC helps people deprived of their freedom to restore and maintain contact with their families by arranging for visits from their next of kin and by enabling them to share family news through Red Cross messages or phone calls.
- More than 12,500 Red Cross messages were exchanged between detainees throughout the country and their families in April.
In mid-April, members of five Iraqi families travelled to Kuwait for the first time to visit their relatives detained in Kuwait Central Prison since the 1990-91 Gulf War. The visit was organized by the ICRC in coordination with the respective government authorities.
Delivering aid to displaced and otherwise vulnerable people
The ICRC continued to provide emergency and relief assistance for people displaced by the armed conflict and to those suffering the effects of natural disasters such as severe drought.
- Food parcels, hygiene kits and essential household items were delivered to about 55,000 people in Baghdad, Al Anbar, Ninewa, Suleimaniya and Diyala governorates.
In April, food was distributed to almost 66,000 people affected by severe drought in Suleimaniya, Erbil, Dohuk, Diyala, Kirkuk and Ninewa governorates.
Reintegrating disabled people into society
For many years, the ICRC has been providing prosthetic/orthotic and rehabilitation services in Iraq. Since 2008, it has also been helping disabled people – landmine victims and others with motor impairments – to return to society and earn a living.
Micro-economic projects supported by the ICRC generate enough income to meet the food needs of beneficiaries and their families. In general, project participants gain confidence as they become able to support themselves and no longer have to depend on relatives.
"Two months ago, I thought I would have to close my barbershop, since it was hard for me to remain standing all day – my good leg was taking too much pressure," said one of the project beneficiaries in Shaqlawa, Erbil governorate. "But I told myself not to give up. I had a chance to feel useful again and I didn’t want to throw it away." He managed to hire a helper and has continued to run his shop.
Providing support for emergency medical care
The ICRC supports the health authorities by regularly providing hospitals with medical supplies in order to maintain their capacity to respond to emergencies involving mass casualties.
In April, the ICRC delivered emergency medical items to help treat over 470 people wounded in explosions.
- Five tonnes of disposables and medicines were delivered to Al Imam Ali General Hospital, Baghdad Medical City Teaching Hospital, Ibn Al Nafees Vascular Surgery Hospital and Kadhumiyah Teaching Hospital, in Baghdad governorate, to Jalawla General Hospital, in Diyala governorate, and to Al Mosul General Hospital, in Ninawa governorate.
Improving water supplies and health care
The ICRC continued to address water emergencies. In April, it delivered water by truck to:
- Qalawa Quarter camp for displaced people (IDPs), hosting some 360 persons in Suleimaniya governorate;
- some 4,500 displaced people in Al-Sadr City, and to Al-Rashad Psychiatry Teaching Hospital, Al-Yarmouk Teaching Hospital and Al-Imam Ali General Hospital, in Baghdad governorate.
To upgrade water and sanitation facilities in hospitals, the ICRC:
- completed work improving the quality of drinking water in Baghdad’s Al-Kindi Teaching Hospital (400 beds);
- finished the complete renovation of the cardiac care unit in Al-Jumhury Hospital (301 beds), in Kirkuk governorate.
The ICRC carried on with its efforts to meet the water and sanitation needs of the civilian population. In April, it:
- supplied and installed new circuit breakers at Al-Ramadi water treatment plant in Al-Anbar governorate to protect pumping systems serving around 400,000 people; it also refurbished several electrical components of Ar-Rutba’s water supply system, which serves some 25,000 people;
- cleaned pits and replaced submersible pumps in six sewage boosting stations in Basrah governorate serving around 240,000 inhabitants; it repaired a damaged roof and replaced the pumps of Al-Fao’s boosting station, also in Basrah governorate, supplying water for about 50,000 inhabitants;
- completed a major project at the Ghammas compact water unit, serving around 35,000 people in Diwaniyah governorate, which involved supplying pumps and treatment equipment as well as general cleaning;
- completed the full renovation of a reverse osmosis water treatment unit in Malaqara, in Ninawa governorate, serving around 1,000 people;
- completed improvements to pumping systems at Al Wathba water treatment plant, which serves around 100,000 people in Baghdad governorate;
- finished upgrading the new Tikrit water treatment plant, which serves around 50,000 inhabitants in Salah Al-Din governorate.
In Basrah, the ICRC revamped the body storage and archive rooms at the Mortal Remains Delivery Centre and built a workshop at the training centre of the Directorate of Water.
تمكنت منظمة بريطانية مختصة بإزالة الألغام من إزالة اكثر من سبعمائة موقع يحوي الغاما خطرة في أقليم كردستان العراق.
وأكدت مديرة الإتصال بالمجتمع في منظمة MAG المختصة بإزالة الالغام في إقليم كردستان العراق (أتور هادو) في تصريح صحفي أن المنظمة تمكنت منذ عام 1992 من إزالة الالغام في أكثر من 700 حقل للألغام في إقليم كردستان.
وأشارت هادو إلى أن المنظمة بدأت بتوسيع برامجها لتشمل مناطق خارج الإقليم.
وأضافت هادو أن منظمتها تهتم أيضاً بإزالة الذخيرة الحيّة للأسلحة الخفيفة والقنابل والمتفجرات،إضافة الى إختصاصها في إزلة الألغام.
يذكر أن منظمة MAG هي منظمة غير حكومية بريطانية تأسست عام 1989 وبدأت بتنفيذ برامجها في العراق منذ عام 1992 وتعمل في أكثر من 35 دولة.