Iraq

ICRC prepares to respond to needs of civilian population in Iraq in case of war

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War in Iraq would precipitate a very serious humanitarian crisis, according to Balthasar Staehelin, ICRC Delegate General for the Middle East. It is essential, therefore, that the international community is ready to respond to the needs of stricken populations in this region. He commented earlier this week: 'Another war would impact very seriously on an already fragilized and impoverished population'.
Over past months, the ICRC has enhanced its operational set-up in Iraq and in the surrounding countries, in terms of material and human resources, so as to be able to respond as quickly as possible to humanitarian needs.

The ICRC's logisitcs set-up includes the capacity to receive, store and forward relief supplies for ICRC-planned actions as well as to support National Societies. As part of its preparedness planning for possible emergency action in Irak, the ICRC has established additional logistics bases in Iran (Kermanshah and Urumiyeh) and Kuwait and extended the existing base in Jordan (Amman) which already provides goods for the population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Food, non-food and medical items have been pre-stocked, including equipment to keep the water and sewage systems for entire towns running as well as ensuring water supply for displaced persons. Stocks are ready to cater for some 150,000 internally displaced persons and to provide medical supplies for up to 7,000 war wounded in Iraki hospitals. (It should be noted, however, that the ICRC refrains from speculating on war scenarios and therefore from making projections on numbers of potential victims.) The manager of the ICRC warehouses (1,600m2) in Kuwait, Guram Burduli, comments that capacity is adequate for current needs but may have to be extended in future.

Trucks and vehicles are being assembled in Amman, Jordan. The ICRC is working with National Societies to locate and recruit drivers from independent neutral countries, such as Sri Lanka and Malaysia, to drive goods into Iraq should the need arise.

The ICRC's preparations are co-ordinated at its headquarters in Geneva. A working group meets on a weekly basis, and more often when necessary, to support the on-going activities in Iraq and neighbouring countries. Balthasar Staehelin, a leading member of the Working Group, believes that respect for the rules of war and the Geneva Conventions is essential to limit the impact of hostilities on the civilian population: "War, as such, always entails an enormous amount of suffering. I just hope that, if war cannot be avoided, at least we would be able to uphold a minimum of humanity".