The Saudi Arabian and Syrian borders are closed. UNHCR is working with the Syrian authorities to clarify the situation, which is contrary to GoS policy.
Unconfirmed sources report numbers of asylum seekers on the borders with Syria, Iran and Jordan. Refugee camps are being prepared in Jordan and Iran.
Large population movements are reported in the northern governorates. People are reported to be leaving the three major cities as well as areas near the GoI border and heading for the countryside.
The GoI closed checkpoints to the three northern governorates at midday on 19 March.
WFP estimates that food supplies of the poorest people in Iraq are unlikely to last beyond May.
The first UNHAS aircraft arrives today in Larnaca.
2 HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN IRAQ
On 15 March, the Government of Iraq commenced the distribution of food rations that should cover the needs for August 2003. As the food commodities pipeline under the Oil-for-Food programme is believed to cease, however, it is uncertain for how long the distribution of food rations may be carried on. Since end July 2002, the GoI has distributed two-month rations each distribution cycle, allowing the population to stockpile food at household level. The GoI has not always been able to deliver the full ration and people have often received less than the established quantities of pulses, vegetable oil and dried whole milk. Information collected through food observation mechanisms also indicates that monthly food rations tend to last no longer than 21 days. Hence, the current March distribution is unlikely to last beyond May for the poorest Iraqis. In the northern governorates, households are believed to have even less reserves. As of 16 March, in Dahuk and Erbil wheat flour has been distributed to cover 100 per cent of the February ration, while in Sulaymaniyah 92 per cent of the February wheat flour requirement was delivered to the population. In Erbil and Dahuk, the March wheat flour distribution has just begun.
In the three northern governorates of Erbil, Dahuk and Sulaymaniyah
The media reports that the Iraqi Kurdish parliament declared a state of emergency on 19 March. The security situation in Dahuk governorate is reported to be calm. Security forces are patrolling. The city is almost empty and many families are leaving to surrounding villages.
Of those leaving their homes, many people are staying with relatives or have their own supplies. Support is currently being provided to 1,500 families (12,000 people) who arrived in Soran from Erbil and Kirkuk. Those who came from Erbil brought essential items with them. Stocks are pre-positioned throughout the three governorates to cope with the needs of additional displaced people and national UN staff are continuing their activities. Three camps are ready, with a further three in preparation.
In the Centre/South
The GoI has taken over the management of the two WFP managed warehouses in Mosul and Kirkuk used for transhipment of commodities to the northern governorates. With the closure of the Mosul - Erbil road, the movement of trucks is uncertain.
The Government of New Zealand announced on 20 March, that it is committing $3.3million for emergency humanitarian relief ($1m to WFP, $500,000 each to the Red Cross, UNHCR and UNICEF and $300,000 to OCHA and UNMAS and $200,000 to NGOs operating in Iraq).
The Government of Australia pledged a further $7.5million to UNHCR, UNICEF and Australian NGOs, making a total contribution of $17.5m for humanitarian preparedness.
Reuters reported from sources in Congress and US agricultural bodies that wheat and rice will be withdrawn from a government-owned emergency reserve for donation to Iraq.
3 SECURITY UPDATE
The UNDP radio room in Kuwait will be operational as soon as the clearance for frequencies has been obtained.
4 HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES
OVERALL HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
The Iranian civil aviation authorities has authorised UN humanitarian flights.
OVERALL HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
An IASC Crisis Management Group (CMG), comprising focal points from UN agencies and registered NGOs, has been set up in Kuwait.
The GoK will grant visas to UN humanitarian personnel, with a laissez-passer, on arrival at the airport.
The level of preparedness has not significantly advanced due to limited financial resources. The suspension of flights to Kuwait is also expected to affect the stocks for pre-positioning.
NGOs have expressed concern regarding the process and role of the Humanitarian Operations Centre (HOC) in the NGO registration process. Even registered NGOs have an unclear legal status in Kuwait, which affects the establishment of activities.
The UNJLC is negotiating air, sea, and ground corridors with the coalition armed forces.
Phase V was declared for UNIKOM. Staff were evacuated and the DMZ no longer exists.
ISSUES REQUIRING FOLLOW-UP
Limited UN resources and the level of preparedness of UN agencies, NGOs, HOC, and Disaster Assistance Response Team to be discussed.
The role of the HOC to be clarified.
OVERALL HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
The UN presence in Dyarbakir and the border town of Silopi is being boosted by both staff arrivals and logistical support. Psychosocial and logistics staff have augmented the UNICEF presence in Silopi, while a mobile field team from UNHCR is monitoring the Harbur border crossing,
A letter has been sent to the Government of Turkey highlighting logistical bottlenecks for the movement of humanitarian cargo. Meanwhile the GoT has authorized the use of port facilities.
UNHCR has given US$140,000 to the Turkish Red Crescent Society (TRCS) under their sub-agreement for logistical support.
The number of checkpoints between Dyarbakir and Silopi has increased. This is complicating the movement of staff in south-east Anatolia with the lack of clarity on procedures as well as the unfamiliarity with the humanitarian efforts in the area is causing delays.
Civil/military coordination is problematic.
Food aid is available in country through WFP for both a refugee influx and for cross border operations. The tripartite agreement on the implementation of food aid distribution is now with the Turkish Red Crescent Society.
Phase II is in effect, as of 10 March 2003, for the south-eastern provinces: Diyarbakir, Hakkari, Sirnak, Van, Tunceli, Siirt, Batman, Bitlis, Bingol, Mardin, and Mus. Phase I is in effect for the rest of the country.
5 SECTORAL FOCUS - HEALTH
During any intensified conflict most of the population of Iraq will continue to be dependent on the Iraqi health system with some support from the national staff of UN agencies and a number of NGOs and the ICRC. These services will be severely stretched if there are large numbers of IDPs, especially if these are in remote areas, although the Iraqi health system is preparing to field mobile teams. Where access is possible to IDPs sufficiently close to the border, cross-border activities from neighbouring countries will be conducted
Pre-positioning of drugs and medical supplies:
IRAQ: At least 50 New Emergency Health Kits containing supplies for basic health care to cover half a million people for three months. In addition, there are supplies in government warehouses estimated to cover the equivalent of 3 months normal consumption.
In neighbouring countries: Kits to cover around 150,000 refugees for 3 months are in place. Supplies for another 750,000 are reported to be in the pipeline or available to be called on within a few days for use in Iraq and the region. In addition, a number of NGOs have indicated that they will take care of their own needs once these are known. Several fully staffed field hospitals and at least 6 self-contained and staffed clinics are on standby.
Around 250 international staff are in place or can be rapidly deployed to work on health projects and an approximately equal number are on standby to provide back-up, including some specialist care, as needed.
There are large numbers of national staff that are currently or tentatively planned to be employed by international agencies/organizations.
Iran: In addition to the existing facilities of Iran's MOH, additional clinics, where needed, and mobile teams at the border entry points would be used. The Iranian Red Crescent and NGOs will address health care needs.
Jordan: Jordan's MOH has made requests for assistance for Iraqi refugees. This is being coordinated with MOH and WHO and involves several key NGOs. IOM has a major presence in Jordan and will take responsibility for the health needs of TCNs.
Turkey: Turkey's MOH made plans to ensure health care for refugees across the border of Northern Iraq. They would run services, conduct vaccination, epidemiological assessments and rapid nutrition screening. These would complement the staff of the health systems of Iraq and neighbouring countries and volunteers of the national Red Crescent Societies.
Awareness training on possible exposure to NBC agents has been carried out in Kuwait, Jordan, and Iran.
Outbreak response: WHO and Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) are on standby and are fully equipped to investigate any disease outbreak. There is an overall limited non-military capacity to respond to an incident of deliberate or accidental exposure to NBC agents.
In the event of massive population displacement, major concerns would include service provision to IDPs in remote areas and maintenance of services for especially vulnerable groups including those in institutions (e.g. orphans and mentally ill) and the elderly and others who may be unable to relocate.
Responsibilities and capacity for cross-border activities from different locations outside Iraq still require more definition and preparation.
Maintenance of electricity supply in health facilities may become an issue, including spare parts and fuel for generators.
A complete regional overview of who will provide health services to refugees in which locations is not yet available.
The Health Coordination Group established as a planning and implementing umbrella under which UN agencies, governments, international organisations and NGOs team up to provide a coordinated response to health risks in Iraq and surrounding countries is now fully operational. Meetings with health sector partners have taken place and around 20 organisations have provided information on their current and intended activities
Nothing significant to report
7 HQ ISSUES/ DEVELOPMENTS
In his statement to the Security Council on 19 March, the UN Secretary General raised the issue of the financial requirements for humanitarian preparedness in the region. Only $45 million has been pledged and $35 million received of the $123.5 million requested.
8 ANY OTHER MATTERS
An United Nations Humanitarian Aircraft Service (UNHAS) aircraft will arrive in Cyprus today, 20 March. Operations will commence shortly.
For further information:
Veronique Taveau,Spokeswoman for the
Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (UNOHCI)
mobile phone : 962 79 69 68 937
Sonia Dumont, Press Officer
Mobile phone : 357 999 39 677
Or by email at: OCHA-CYP-HAORI@un.org