Monday, September 24, 2007

Red Cross Assessment Finds Iraq Situation Very Different from General Petraeus

A new assessment from the International Committee of the Red Cross emphasises that the humanitarian situation in Iraq is continuing to deteriorate. It appears to be completely at odds with the up beat message from General Petraeus on the success of the US surge in reducing violence. Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo writes from Geneva after returning from a recent field visit.
"The humanitarian crisis is continuing to spread, deepen and worsen. Security has deteriorated hugely over the last year, especially in recent months. The humanitarian situation is desperate.

On my mission to Iraq it struck me to what extent the main concerns for people in Iraq are security and survival. The danger is insidious. Violence can strike anywhere, anytime, anyhow, while you’re shopping or while you’re taking your children to school. Not only in Baghdad but in many other towns and several regions. You can see that life in Iraq is permeated by a deep-seated fear of what might happen next.

I think that’s what’s hardest for people there to live with. It’s even worse than the difficulties of everyday life – shortages of water and electricity, difficulty buying food because of the danger of leaving the house, limited access to medical care, etc. The hospitals are functioning badly and are swamped, very few qualified staff have stayed in Iraq, those health centres that haven’t closed down are only working intermittently, and even then they’re not functioning as they should be. Every aspect of life has become a strain. All this is forcing more and people to flee. They head for other parts of Iraq, or try to escape to other countries.

It’s very difficult to say how many people are affected by the conflict, or to give the number of displaced persons and refugees. What is certain is that several million people have emigrated and several hundred thousand have become internally displaced persons. The authorities have announced that they are going to close the border with Syria, which would make the situation even harder for people who want to leave the country."