Jordan Red Crescent prepares for possible population movements from Iraq

by Rana Sidani in Amman
The Jordan Red Crescent Society (JRCS) and the International Federation are preparing to cope with a possible influx of vulnerable people from Iraq, should a war break out in the coming days or weeks.

"We are prepared to assist at least 10,000 people in the first days of a crisis," said JRCS President Dr Muhammad Al-Hadid. The JRCS could provide relief to foreigners or third country nationals in the event that they are evacuated from Iraq as a result of a conflict, but also to Iraqi refugees if necessary.

"If we are asked by the Government of Jordan to set up a camp, we will do it," Al-Hadid pointed out. "This doesn't mean that the Red Crescent is expecting such population movements to happen. But we are preparing ourselves to fulfil our humanitarian mission of assisting the vulnerable, whatever the reason."

"We are building on the experience we had during the 1991 war when more than one million Iraqi refugees came into Jordan," he added.

In the past weeks, the Federation has pre-positioned relief supplies in Jordan, including non-food items for 5,000 people sent to the Jordan Red Crescent. These items consist of tents, blankets, mattresses, stoves, and heaters, as well as kitchen sets, jerry cans and soap. The Federation also has non-food regional stocks in Jordan, sufficient to cater for 40,000 people, which can be sent to other countries in the region if necessary.

Federation specialists are working hand-in-hand with their JRCS colleagues. "The Red Crescent is recruiting 20 employees, for whom we helped define responsibilities and job descriptions," explained Patrick Howard, the Federation's disaster management co-ordinator in Jordan. "At least 200 volunteers will be trained on camp management and water and sanitation in the coming days."

"It is important that our staff and volunteers know exactly what to do in case of emergency," Al-Hadid commented. "We have 600 registered volunteers, many of whom are experienced in providing first aid and primary health care services. Fifty were specifically trained on disaster management." They stand ready to set up a camp in the Jordanian desert, next to the Iraqi border.

Preparing for the worst, the International Federation is supporting Red Crescent Societies in all countries surrounding Iraq to cope with a possible humanitarian crisis. Together they are presently in a position to quickly provide assistance to some 345,000 people. In Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, the Federation has access to relief items for 20,000 people.

Some 32 emergency response units (ERUs), with specialised equipment and personnel, are on stand by in national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across the world, ready to be deployed to the region if necessary. Seven ERUs for basic health care and referral hospital services in particular have been mobilised by the Red Cross Societies of Finland, Germany, Japan, Norway and Spain.

In addition, the Federation has increased the number of its international delegates in Iran, Syria, and Kuwait. The regional delegation in Amman has now 30 staff, including 16 delegates.