Additional support for the Iraqi Red Crescent

Published: 16 November 2004 0:00 CET

Marie-Françoise Borel

The International Federation is increasing its support to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society’s (IRCS) emergency operations to help people displaced by the escalating violence in and around the city of Falluja.

The city, located about 50 km west of Baghdad and home to some 300,000 people, has been the scene of fierce fighting for more than a week.

The Federation has released an additional 250,000 Swiss francs to allow the IRCS to immediately purchase more relief items locally and to finance operating costs. With the spread of fighting to areas such as the city of Mosul, there will be a need to rent additional vehicles to transport emergency assistance to the affected areas.

According to the IRCS branch in Al-Anbar, an additional 4,000 families have fled Falluja in recent days and are currently struggling to survive, without water, food or medicines.

The large-scale offensive against Falluja by Iraqi and Multinational Forces began on 7 November, displacing thousands of families, most of whom sought shelter with relatives or friends. But many are living in makeshift conditions such as tents and abandoned homes. There are approximately 250,000 people living in 12 camps in the area.

Since the beginning of the offensive, the Iraqi Red Crescent has been delivering essential support, including food, water, soap, blankets, clothes and medical supplies, to hundreds of families in areas close to Falluja, such as Amiriyat.

Donations are being sent from Red Crescent Societies in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, and sister Red Cross Societies, among others.

"The IRCS is faced with many difficulties and challenges on the ground, the major one being accessibility. We are working very hard to find alternative roads to reach the most vulnerable populations,” explains Mazin Abdullah Salloum, head of the IRCS International Department.

“It is also extremely important to know that we are supported by the ICRC and the Federation, not only with relief items but also operationally. We know that both the Federation and the ICRC are doing all they can to overcome major problems and to provide the national society with necessary back up and thereby enable the IRCS to be more active on the ground," he adds.

On November 13, a joint Iraqi Red Crescent/ICRC convoy of vehicles, including refrigerated trucks loaded with medicines and three ambulances, and carrying relief items for 700 families, travelled to Falluja.

It gained access to the city’s general hospital, which is adequately stocked with medical supplies, but has no injured patients. It is surmised that the injured could not reach the hospital because of the fighting.

The second part of the convoy, including the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) team reached Al-Habbanyah, where it distributed 650 food parcels to families there and dispatched one water purification unit.

The convoy was not allowed to access parts of the city not controlled by the Multinational Forces for security reasons. The IRCS, Federation and ICRC are particularly concerned about the fate of injured and sick people who might not be not receiving adequate medical care, in a city whose population is currently deprived of food, electricity and water.

Should the situation continue to deteriorate, the International Federation is not excluding the possibility of asking for additional funds from the international community.

"The present situation is highly unstable and it seems that the violence will spread to other areas. The conflict affects a large number of people and the normal distribution systems of water, health care and food rations cannot cope with the rapid changes on the ground,” says the head of the Federation’s delegation for Iraq, Per Andersson.

“It is therefore very important for the Federation to mobilise resources to quickly support the national society and the ICRC wherever it might be required. The Federation meets with the national society and the ICRC on a daily basis to properly coordinate the support to the most vulnerable."