BAGHDAD AND CENTRAL IRAQ (covering 24-27 April)
Security problems continue to plague Baghdad, and shooting is still heard regularly at night. In addition, the explosion on 26 April of an ammunitions dump in southeast Baghdad illustrates the danger presented by unexploded ordnance. Two hospitals visited by the ICRC after this incident reported about 50 wounded and six dead. The ICRC provided them with urgently needed drugs and materials, including a kit for 100 war-wounded patients.
The ICRC office in Baghdad is being contacted by dozens of local residents with different concerns, ranging from the search for missing or detained relatives and the need to restore contact with family members to the problems of families who have left their homes because of ethnic, political or religious tensions. During the period under review, the ICRC in Baghdad collected 123 "safe and well" messages, while Iraqi Red Crescent volunteers collected a further 89 messages. The ICRC also facilitated 157 satellite phone calls for Baghdadis eager to contact their families abroad and distributed 93 messages written by prisoners of war to their families.
Continued insecurity and a lack of functioning administrative and management structures and services (salaries, distribution systems for food, fuel and medical supplies) are the greatest obstacles to the normal operation of health services in Baghdad. There are still wounded patients arriving at hospitals, mostly because of looting and incidents involving unexploded ordnance (see above). In addition, treatment for people suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension is becoming increasingly difficult, since the special drugs they need are not available or are not being distributed to medical facilities because of administrative problems. The ICRC has repeatedly informed the Occupying Powers of the situation, urging them to take immediate steps to address the administrative vacuum and structural problems affecting the health-care sector.
The general state of hospitals has not changed noticeably over recent days. The functional capacity of hospitals falls into three categories: a) a few hospitals whose staff have devised coping mechanisms allowing them to work but at reduced capacity; b) the majority of hospitals providing only emergency care; and c) quite a number of hospitals not functioning at all. During the period covered, the ICRC assisted al Rashad psychiatric hospital with food and basic medicines and al Karama hospital with a one-month food ration for 400 patients.
Water and electricity supply
Despite recent improvements the water and power situation remains difficult, with some parts of the city receiving little or no supplies. The ICRC estimates that over the weekend about 40 per cent of the normal electricity supply was restored. Infrastructure such as pumping stations, electrical substations and water- and waste water-treatment plants is still falling prey to looters. The situation at Rustumiya waste water-treatment plant remains critical, with the sewage of about three million people currently flowing untreated into the Dyiala River, a tributary of the Tigris. On a daily basis, the ICRC has continued to provide 200 cubic metres (200,000 litres) of supplementary water to about 40,000 residents of Baghdad lacking water, as well as between 11 and 15 cubic metres to hospitals.
On 26 April, the ICRC in Arbil visited and registered four people deprived of their freedom and held by United States forces.
An ICRC team comprised of medical, water and habitat and relief staff is currently assessing the humanitarian situation in southern parts of Sulaymaniya governorate, including some areas which prior to the war were controlled by the government in Baghdad.