Monday, March 17, 2008

ICRC Report Refocuses Attention on Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq

Geneva (ICRC) – Five years after the outbreak of the war in Iraq, the humanitarian situation in most of the country is among the most critical in the world, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a report issued today.

Because of the conflict, millions of Iraqis have insufficient access to clean water, sanitation and health care. The current crisis is exacerbated by the lasting effects of previous armed conflicts and years of sanctions.

“Better security in some parts of Iraq must not distract attention from the continuing plight of millions of people who have essentially been left to their own devices,” said Béatrice Mégevand Roggo, the ICRC’s head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa. “Among them are displaced and refugee families, and those who have returned to their homes, children, elderly people, disabled people, households headed by women and families of detainees.”

Although security has improved in some parts of the country, Iraqis continue to be killed or injured on a daily basis in fighting and attacks. Civilians are often deliberately targeted, in complete disregard for the rules of international humanitarian law. In many families there is at least one person who is sick, injured, missing or detained, or who has been forced to flee from home and live far away.

Health care, water and sanitation services and electricity supplies remain largely inadequate. Hospitals lack qualified staff and basic drugs, and therefore struggle to provide suitable care for the injured. Many health-care facilities have not been properly maintained, and the care they provide is often too expensive for ordinary Iraqis.

The water supply has continued to deteriorate over the past year. Millions of people have been forced to rely on insufficient supplies of poor-quality water as water and sewage systems suffer from a lack of maintenance and a shortage of engineers.

The full report (pdf) can be downloaded here