Iraq: Who pays the cost? Nº 3/4

On May 6th 2003, the Iraqui Al-Amal Association, the national Social Watch Focal Point, has issued a newsletter on the Iraq war focusing on the analysis of the cost of the war for civilian people.

IAA Weekly Newsletter Nº 3/4 - May 6th, 2003

US Troops Shoot Iraqi Protesters

A near riot broke out in Baghdad on May 1st after shots were fired into a diesel reserve killing four, wounding some 20 and causing an explosion and raging fire.

Efforts by the military to clear the crowds were greeted by chants of 'Get out, go home'.

US soldiers killed 15 people and injured over 50 in Felluja on April 28th following two demonstrations urging US soldiers to vacate a school they have been using as a base. The age of victims in Felluja ranged from 6 to 23 years, according to hospital sources. US soldiers also killed a similar number in Mosul in similar circumstances. A British soldier in southern Iraq has killed a young boy in what appears to have been an accidental shooting.

A series of massive explosions at a nearby weapons' dump hit al- Muallimin district in
Baghdad on April 26th. Three days earlier, village representatives had demanded that the Americans should stop the blasts, which they feared were too close to their homes.

Inhumane Treatment

Amnesty International expressed concern at reports of American soldiers escorting naked Iraqi men through a park in Baghdad. A US military officer is quoted as saying that this treatment is an "effective method" of deterring thieves from entering the park, and is a method which will be used again. Such degrading treatment is a clear violation of the human rights as stated in Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Amnesty International said.

Al-Amal in Baghdad

Two members of Al-Amal Emergency Committee left for Baghdad two weeks ago with the aim of setting up Al-Amal base in Baghdad in order to facilitate and administer the activities of Al-Amal within what used to be GoIcontrolled areas where it was not possible for NGOs to operate. With the help of specialised Iraqi volunteers, they have started carrying out field assessments in Baghdad and Najaf to specify the actual needs of people there. Al- Amal intends to extend their research into the middle and southern regions as far as Basra.

NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq

Iraqi Al-Amal has become a member of the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI) along with up to 30 other international NGOs based in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, who have joined together to coordinate their assistance efforts. It is worth mentioning that Iraqi Al-Amal is so far the only local NGO to be included in this committee which has grown in size from only six NGOs since it was established on April 16th. The Committee had set up specialised working groups in a number of areas including health, education, water and sanitation, food and non-food items, engineering and rehabilitation, as well as logistics and transport. New arriving humanitarian organisations are encouraged to contact the Committee:


sat. tel: 00 88 2166 322 5455

Health Conditions Deteriorate

Many hospitals throughout Iraq are in a poor state of repair, with health staff working in extremely difficult circumstances, reported the WHO.

Reportedly, the greatest obstacles to the normal operation of health services in
Baghdad are the lack of electricity and water as well as lack of staff management and organisation in the hospitals.

Furthermore, treatment for people suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension is becoming increasingly difficult, since the special drugs they need are not available or are not being distributed, while aid agencies concentrate on urgent cases and first aid.

Meanwhile, the ICRC has reported people have been returning looted materials to hospitals throughout Baghdad following an appeal by religious leaders in mosques. These returned items have become the main sources of supply for the hospitals.

Food Shortage

The last food rations distributed under the former Oil-For-Food Programme were given out before hostilities started on 10 March. They were expected to last until August, but it is feared that many families have been forced to sell their supplies meantime.

The WFP said it would take on the task of feeding the entire Iraqi population for three months, before handing over to a national administration and market forces, while international NGOs will provide food for the most vulnerable.

Remnants of War

Unexploded ordnance left behind by the Iraqi military is killing and maiming dozens of people every day. The number of civilians killed or wounded since the war ended in northern Iraq is higher than it was during the conflict, Human Rights Watch said on 27 April.

The main hospital in Kirkuk, northern Iraq, has reported that in just one week 52 people were killed and 63 injured by landmines and unexploded ordnances.

Mass Graves

As local people continue to search for relatives several mass graves have been found. Recently, a mass grave has been uncovered in Najaf which appears to date back to 1991 uprisings against Saddam Hussein which were brutally repressed.

Another one near
Babylon was also uncovered two days before.

Meanwhile, volunteers from the newly formed Iraqi Committee to Free Prisoners sifted through mounds of files, looking for evidence of what happened to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who disappeared during the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Save the Iraqi Heritage

Many Iraqi museums and public libraries, including the National Museum, have been raid and looted some of whose artefacts date back thousands of years. UNESCO, along with museums around the world, is now deliberating how to deal with what has been widely considered a "cultural disaster". In 1991, after the Gulf War, nine of Iraq's regional museums were looted with over 4,000 artefacts lost.

While in 2003, the number is estimated to be 14,000.

EU Accuses the US

The European Commission has blamed the United States for delaying medical supplies to Iraq saying landing permission for an airlift of critical hospital supplies for Baghdad at the city's airport had not been given.

There are still no UN flights to North Iraq or Baghdad though the UN has been seeking permission to fly to North Iraq since April 9th.

A SCF-UK plane carrying medical supplies was refused permission to land in North Iraq by coalition forces. The IRC was also unsuccessful during the last three weeks to get permission to land in North Iraq

So far, only ICRC has managed to land a plane in

Insufficient Aid

With aid organisations slowly arriving in the south of Iraq, the first steps are being taken towards getting much-needed supplies to those most in need. However, despite most of the south having fallen to coalition troops several weeks ago, only limited assistance is actually reaching the region as concerns persist over safety, reported the UNOCHA.

Schools Reopened

After a closure of six weeks, a number of primary schools in Baghdad and Basra have reopened their doors. Difficulties faced by returning teachers and pupils include erratic electricity supplies, destroyed buildings, blocked and stinking toilets, and in many cases no stationary or copybooks. Reportedly, many students might have difficulty getting back to university in Baghdad from their homes across the country.

Services Suffer Set-Backs

Despite recent improvements, water and power situations in various Iraqi cities remain difficult with some parts receiving little or no supplies.

The ICRC estimated that over the weekend (3rd and 4th of April) about 40 per cent of the normal electricity supply to Baghdad was restored. Infrastructure such as pumping stations, electrical substations and water- and waste water-treatment plants are still falling prey to looters.

The situation at Rustumiya waste water-treatment plant remains critical, with the sewage of about three million people currently flowing untreated into the Dyiala River, a tributary of the Tigris.

Piles of rubbish, some of it set aflame, have been accumulating in the streets while many garbage trucks have been stolen by looters.

Broken water plants and sewage systems threaten to spread disease epidemics, according to the agencies.

Cut off from the World

Communication between Iraq and the outside world remains almost impossible as war has destroyed the telecommunication system.

Entrepreneurs are renting out their satellite phones for people to call abroad now that there are no phone connections, Internet or postal services available.

Each minute costs up to US $10.

Baghdad, the ICRC has been offering Iraqis the use of their 6 satellite phones for brief calls to reassure relatives abroad that they are safe.

Desperate Iraqis were witnessed besieging journalists and other foreigners pleading for the use of their communications equipment to call loved ones overseas.