Checkpoints between the three northern governorates and Government of Iraq controlled areas remain closed limiting population movements.
Unconfirmed reports of population displacement, due to conflict in Halabja area of Sulaymaniyah governorate in north.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN IRAQ
NORTH (Erbil, Dahuk, Sulaymaniyah)
The security situation remained calm except for the Halabja area in Sulaymaniyah, close to the Iranian border which was affected by conflict with Ansar al Islam. The area is still restricted to UN staff. There are reports that people have fled to New Halabja, Sulaymaniyah and Iran but numbers are unknown.
The extent to which the cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah have returned to normal will be easier to judge with ending of the Nawrouz holiday.
Fuel continues to be scarce and expensive.
The checkpoints on the dividing line with the Government of Iraq (GoI) controlled areas are closed but 6 IDPs did manage to cross by an alternative route.
As of 28 February, the number of old-caseload IDPs in the northern governorates registered and verified by UNOPS was 17,303 families, or an estimated 138,424 people, living in camps, collective towns or public buildings. The new caseload, of 4,967 IDPs registered by UNOPS, are people who came from across the GoI dividing line. This figure does not include the IDPs who have recently fled their homes within the northern governorates. It is difficult at this time to confirm the numbers.
An assessment of 700 IDPs in Balisan and 1,100 IDPs in Qaladza revealed that they are all from within the northern governorates and are currently staying with host families. There is no urgent need for assistance but the burden on host families could increase as the situation continues.
A UN assessment by national staff of IDPs in areas close to the borders with Iran and Turkey and the dividing line will be carried out shortly.
BAGHDAD (Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala)
The ICRC reports that personnel are visiting hospitals in Baghdad. ICRC delivered surgical materials to Al Yamouk Teaching Hospital where they saw 100 wounded. It was unclear whether they were civilians or military.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES
OVERALL HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
The Deputy Minister of Interior and Head of the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Agency (BAFIA), Mr. Ahmad Hosseini, has announced the closure of Iran's borders with Iraq and the closure of Iran's air space to combatants.
According to the Deputy Minister, they have no reports of Iraqi refugees arriving at Iranian borders. He further indicated that, given that Iran is sheltering 2-million Afghan refugees, the country is unable to shelter the Iraqi refugees without the help of the United Nations.
Would-be asylum seekers have been reported at several border areas (Piranshar, Panjveyn City, Parviz Khan). UNHCR Iran is closely monitoring the situation and sending staff to verify unconfirmed reports. As of now, there are no confirmed arrivals.
UNHCR has released 1 million dollars to BAFIA for the costs of preparatory work in four camps at the border area inside south-western Iran. This is for clearing of land mines, construction of access roads and the building of water and sanitation facilities. Each of the four sites will have a capacity for 15,000 refugees and can be expanded as the need arises.
The Russian Emergencies Ministry (EMERCOM) has arrived in Kermanshah to provide humanitarian assistance. Russian aircraft containing various relief items have arrived in Kermanshah, reportedly carrying tents, stoves, diesel generators,, a water purification unit and food rations.
The security situation is calm along the border with Iraq. Internal security clearance procedures have been established in Kermanshah and Khuzestan provinces, where UN Agencies / Programmes are operating. Radio rooms and installation of HF/VHF communications equipment is progressing. Newly appointed and arriving staff are receiving mine risk education.
There are media reports that on Friday 21 March, a rocket hit an oil refinery depot in the city of Abadan in south-western Iran close to the Iraqi border.
Heavy blasts and shelling were heard in Khorramshar (120 km south of Ahwaz) towards the Al Faw peninsula. UNHCR received reports that the local population in Khorramshar and Abadan started to evacuate.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Government offices are closed and will remain so until Tuesday, 24 March during Nawrouz.
OVERALL HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
WHO have established an office in Ruwasheid, which will host daily co-ordination meetings between MoH, HCO, WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and NGOs. It will also be the point for a health screening database and analysis in co-operation with the MoH.
There are ongoing discussions about better coordination amongst agencies of registration processes and medical screening.
UNHCR reports that there are no refugees in Camp A nor have Iraqi asylum seekers been observed on the road to Karameh.
In Camp B (TCNs), UNICEF will provide a tent for children's education programmes. A generator has been set-up and is now providing electricity in the camp.
UNHCR reported that 24 Palestinians wishing to enter Jordan are currently in no-man's land awaiting processing. A further 25 Somalis are expected to have cleared the border this morning.
IOM reports that buses are moving TCNs from the border but the numbers are to be confirmed. IOM will have a second flight from Amman to Khartoum today.
OVERALL HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
While the northern border with Iraq is still closed, the frontier with Kuwait is open. The Customs Authorities have not reported any abnormal increase in the traffic since the beginning of the conflict. TCNs are authorised to cross the border if holding a passport and an adequate transit visa.
Officials from the foreign missions of Philippines, Turkey, Egypt and Sri Lanka visited the cross-border point of Khafji at the Saudi-Kuwait to assess the situation and the preparation of arrangements in case of influx of their own citizens fleeing Kuwait through KSA before going back to their homelands. Consular teams from the Indian and Philippine embassies are posted in Khafji to coordinate with immigration officer at the SA border.
IOM is monitoring the operation of assistance to TCNs transiting through the KSA. It has been reported that 1200 Egyptians have crossed the border already and another 500 are expected to do so in the coming days.
No detailed plan of action has been published yet but the Government is ready to assist up to 24,000 refugees families. The emergency committee met Thursday 20 March to discuss the medical needs and requirements to face an emergency. According the Minister of Health, emergency material and human resources are on stand by to respond to an emergency situation whenever it occurs.
Larnaca, 23 March 2003