- The Syrian border has re-opened after intervention by UNHCR.
- IDP flows in the north continue.
Ten UNICEF emergency electrical engineering teams are responding to emergency water and sanitation needs in Baghdad.
Planning for the eventual re-entry to Iraq of humanitarian organizations is underway and an inter-agency meeting took place today at the Regional Humanitarian Coordination Office to work out the details. After a security assessment is conducted and security clearance given, inter-sectoral teams will undertake rapid humanitarian assessments on the humanitarian needs and, as soon as possible, establish bases in Iraq from where to start relief operations. The first locations to be assessed will depend on logistics, access and estimated needs of the population.
IDP movements in the north continue. Estimated numbers range from 300,000 to 450,000. IDPs fled from Kirkuk to Erbil and Sulaymaniyah and the movement of population from Erbil city toward Shaqlawa and Soran is increasing and in the last few days the population left Sulaymaniyah and Dahuk cities. While Dahuk is now almost depopulated, some people are now returning to Sulaymaniyah. The GoI checkpoints are closed, therefore the movement to the three northern governorates from centre/south has come to a virtual halt. It is estimated that 90% of the IDPs are staying with relatives and are not in need of immediate assistance. Local authorities and UN national staff are attempting to meet the immediate needs and there are serious concerns for the health situation of those who are not appropriately sheltered. Local authorities requested UN and NGOs to support the preparation of six camps in Sulaymaniyah and for four reception points in Dahuk. Within 2-3 weeks, UNOPs will receive non-food items that would cover the needs of 15,000 IDPs for 2 weeks Public buildings have been also adapted to house IDPs on a temporary basis. Many people crossing the checkpoints refused to be registered. Weather conditions worsened, thus affecting IDPs conditions and slowing down camps preparation activities.
NORTH (Erbil, Dahuk, Sulaymaniyah)
The largest population movements are in the Dahuk area where an estimated 85% of the city (population 120,000) has moved to villages east of the city. Reportedly, asylum seekers do not want to cross the Turkish border.
Pre-positioning of non-food items to Darbandikan, Chwarta and Qaladza (Sulaymaniyah) and to Sarsan (Dahuk) commenced.
National UN staff and local NGOs continue emergency demining, permanent marking of corridors, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) reconnaissance in the three northern Governorates. Inclement weather prevented operations in Dahuk and Soran (Erbil). Security has been upgraded in the main operational bases of Soran Fort (Erbil), Suse Fort and in the head office in Erbil Governorate to protect installations and secure explosive storage spaces. Local NGOs started mine risk education sessions in the new IDPs camps.
Fuel shortages are reported in Dharbandikan (Sulaymaniyah) prices have tripled in the local markets of Erbil and Soran triplicate. UN agencies will rely on pre-positioned stock from today. Traffic congestion is reported due to increased movement of population. Local authorities are experiencing some problems in transporting items due to the high cost of vehicles hire and fuel.
The dividing line between the GOI and the three northern governorates closed on 19 March at 12:00.
The Japanese Government announced that it would provide $5million to UNICEF, UNHCR and WFP. More funding would be made available, if necessary. A Japanese medical team will also be sent to Syria in case of a major refugee influx.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES
OVERALL HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
WFP has increased their staffing levels to ensure full logistical support to the camps at and near the border. Two warehouses have been rented on the main road to Iraq at Juweideh with a capacity of 16,000 MT. There are currently 450 MT of food in stock. As of Saturday, 600 kg of bread will be available for distribution to the camps on a daily basis.
Access to Ruweished hospital for referral cases has now been established. UNFPA is training MoH staff in dealing with TCNs/refugees. UNICEF concluded a second training of trainers session with the Jordanian Government to provide psychosocial, health and education services for Iraqi refugee women and children.
UNHCR reported the arrival of one refugee and two others who are being processed for asylum. Twenty people (probably TCNs) are stranded at the border. The situation is being taken up with the authorities.
In camp A (Refugees) the electricity and street lighting system is working. The water distribution points will be fully operational in 2-3 days. Forty tents have been erected and 80 latrines are functional. Operational capacity is now estimated to be for 5,000 people. A Rubb Hall is to be installed today with a capacity of 450 MT.
Eight tents have been sent to Ruweished. They will set-up in the camp for education (6), psychosocial support (1) and as a health clinic (1).
UNHCR will conclude their partnership agreements with GoJ, CARE, Oxfam and Hashemite Organisation today. MoUs will be established with two other NGOs, Japan Platform and GAA.
In Camp B (TCNs) there are currently 349 people, mostly Sudanese (300), but also Eritrean, Chadian, and Egyptians. Some Iraqi nationals present have a second citizenship. Two-hundred fifty will fly back to their countries today. Five buses are transferring an estimated 200 to 250 people from the border and a further 5 buses are on stand-by. Two Rubb Halls have been erected. Further tents will be set-up when necessary. Bottled water is currently being distributed until a water tanker system can be put in place from the source near Camp A. WFP will provide dried food and JECRAD will produce hot meals. Until that point meals are being bought locally and packed lunches provided during transportation. There is no electricity available at the moment but options are being considered.
WFP sea shipment of 50 MT of High Protein Biscuits arrived on 19 March.
HIC ME staff in Kuwait will train UN/IO/NGO and other partners in application of the Interagency Rapid Assessment Form (IRAF) during the coming week.
Constraints in financial resources continue to have serious consequences for UN agencies' capacity to implement the humanitarian aid.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
The visa processing speeded up, with a total of 51 visa applications processed on 19 March.
Kuwait Airport is temporarily closed for commercial traffic. Humanitarian airlifts are possible upon request.
OVERALL HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
The Government has reconfirmed that it is ready to respond to humanitarian needs but reiterated its "closed border" policy.
The Minister for Oil declared that the KoSA is ready to supply more oil to compensate any disruption in supply due to the war.
The Government task force related to Iraq crisis, together with UNHCR, will meet today in order to discuss the provision of humanitarian assistance.
The town of Ar'ar has been designated as the centre for all humanitarian operations. Civil defence is in the state of readiness with supplementary safety equipment, ambulances, medicines, and emergency teams in place.
No refugee influx is reported but the situation near the border is monitored.
Some routes and airports near the Iraqi border are closed for humanitarian efforts. The GoS has stated that domestic and international flights would be not affected.
ISSUES REQUIRING FOLLOW UP
The Office of the Resident Coordinator will provide support to WFP to obtain the GoKSA's approval to use ports and transport facilities for an eventual cross-border operation.
OVERALL HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
Political developments as it impacts the humanitarian operation
GOS opened the border to Iraqi refugees after intervention by UNHCR. GOS offered 'unlimited support' to cross border operations from Syria into Iraq.
GoS identified two more camps inside Syrian territory; one in Abu Kamal (4 km from the border) and the other near Tanf border crossing. GoS started moving heavy equipment to the sites. As planned, El Hol camp will be used to accommodate 20,000 refugees. At present, El Hol camp can absorb up to 10,000 refugees. A separate area will be set aside to provide temporary shelter for TCNs in each camp.
At the UNCT emergency meeting, the Minister of Local Affairs reaffirmed the Government's commitment to cooperate with UN agencies. Government resources are limited so the GoS will rely on UN assistance in setting up camps, particularly in the installation of water and sanitation facilities.
GoS has denied requests by IOM and UNICEF to visit the new camps. UNHCR was not allowed to monitor the situation at the border.
GoS has stated all international organizations should coordinate the field trips to affected areas with the officials assigned from Ministry of Local Affairs, MFA and Ministry of Information.
OVERALL HUMANITARIAN OPERATION
Political Developments as it impacts the humanitarian operation
The Turkish parliament authorised the Government to send members of the Turkish Army into northern Iraq, and to allow foreign air forces to use Turkish air space in the armed conflict.
The MFA representative in Diyarbakir announced that daily coordination meetings with internationals are to start next week. All agency personnel whose names have been forwarded to the MFA in Ankara for security clearance have been issued a blanket clearance. This should be followed by an authorisation to move freely within the entire region.
Habur border crossing, which for the last week has been open only to the transit of food consignments, is reported to be closed as of 08:00 hours of 20 March. All trucks carrying WFP consignments to Iraq, that did not cross at that time, have been diverted to the warehouses in Gaziantep. UNICEF contractors (K&N/NATA) are reporting that drivers are increasingly reluctant to drive consignments into Iraq. UNHCR, however, reports that Habur crossing remained open to traffic from northern Iraq into Turkey. Conversations with some of those transiting into Turkey suggest there is presently no movement of asylum seekers toward the border.
WFP warehouses in Gaziantep have still not been given the bonded status by the customs authorities. The RC has had an exchange with the relevant authorities that promised a prompt solution.
SECTORAL FOCUS - HEALTH AND REFUGEES
The border with Iran is closed and assistance to refugees will be provided along the border inside Iraq. Should refugees be allowed to cross the border, they would be settled in 12 camps already identified by GoI and humanitarian partners. All camps are located within 18 km from the border.
Utilising existing facilities and mobile structures, the teams at the border entry points should be able to deal with most of the morbidity. Currently, there is one health centre for every 20,000 refugees. The 5-bed centre offers continuous services in the patient bay (day-care observation area). Additionally, 10 centres and 60 beds for day-care would be needed for a caseload of 150,000. The health centre will be staffed with trained health workers and midwives and equipped with emergency health and reproductive health kits.
The health status of the refugees and asylum seekers at the border is expected to be poor, due to the strain of journey and the deterioration of the Iraqi health care system over the past decade. Other health concerns will include injuries sustained en route, malnutrition and chronic diseases left untreated in Iraq.
MOH/BAFIA, in collaboration with UN Agencies and the NGOs will provide health care services, including establishment of facilities in the camps, access to all level of health care services, provision of drugs and medical equipment, immunisation to all children and pregnant women, surveillance system and preventive and control measures, health communication, and provision of qualified medical staff.
Possibility of engaging NGOs with previous experience in the area is being explored. UNICEF could reallocate immediately 15 emergency health kits already pre-positioned in Iran to cover the basic health needs of 150,000 people for 3 months. The Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) and MoH will have an essential role in providing assistance.
GoJ indicated that refugees may be kept near the border for the first month, and would then be moved to 3 camps located at 70 km from the border. No specific health preparations have been outlined.
The worst case scenario indicates an influx of 200,000 refugees, although it is more likely that only 50,000 individuals would cross the border.
GoK Ministry of Health will provide health care services in the camps. Refugees are not expected to arrive with serious health and nutritional problems. Notwithstanding, health problems related to water and sanitation could emerge. MoH would prepare temporary health and sanitation facilities, provision of effective drugs and vaccines, an effective referral system, regular surveillance and overall coordination of the provision of medical services - including health education.
For refugees who will be allowed by the authorities to cross into Saudi territory, initial health services will be likely provided by the MODA medical services. It is expected that the MOH and Saudi Red Crescent would take the lead in provision of services to the refugees.
It is not expected that the refugees will arrive with serious health or nutritional problems, as they will proceed from urban areas. However, given the environment in which they will settle, health problems related to water and sanitation are likely to develop.
Outstanding issues include health assistance to the population at the border and in the camps, coordination of health services, supply chain of essential drugs and vaccines.
The Syrian government has identified six potential refugee campsites: El Hol Camp (existing UNHCR Refugee Camp, in process of being rehabilitated); Tal Hamize Camp and Ash Shaddadi Camp (Hassake Governorate); Al Kashmeh (near Abu Kamal) Camp (Deir Zour Governorate); Batmah Camp (replacing Abu Shamat); and another camp site, near Palmyira (Governorate of Homs), which is yet to be visited.
Healthcare provision in the camps includes detection of refugees with health problems are upon arrival; ensure minimum standards of health care including essential vaccination: maintain death rate within the norms; and address the health needs of the vulnerable refugees.
The existing health system running the El Hol camp clinic and managing a referral system to outside hospitals would be enhanced to cope with emergency situation. The reception centres would be equipped to provide care for dehydration, respiratory infections, presumed malaria, trauma and other life threatening conditions.
UNICEF will assist with immunization of all children under 15 years. All children 6 months to 15 years old must receive a dose of measles vaccine and an appropriate dose of vitamin A upon arrival in the reception/transit centers. UNICEF will also provide cold-chain equipment, syringes, vaccines and health kits to address the medical care needs for 10,000 persons and could provide health kit for extra 10,000 refugees.
MoH will undertake an initial medical screening of refugees and asylum seekers. Six fully staffed field hospitals will be deployed and health care centres and outpatient clinics will be established at the settlement sites, in cooperation with the Turkish Red Crescent society. MoH will provide medical staff to these facilities and may also establish mechanisms for the referral and treatment of more serious cases to State health care facilities.
United Nations agencies will support MoH efforts with provision of emergency health kits and other equipment; personnel and training. UNICEF will establish "baby station" units, mobile medical teams; implement an Expanded Programme on Immunisations (EPI); provide kits and train of volunteers and refugee leaders. UNFPA will establish a comprehensive reproductive health (RH) programme. IOM will make available medical teams to perform screening and referral and will ensure medical screening of TCNs before their departure. UNHCR will deploy an international Health & Nutrition Officer, based in Silopi, to assist UN and GoT activities and has also made provision in its contingency budget for activities in support health needs of refugees and asylum seekers.