Red Cross: Civilian Life in Iraq ‘Ever-worsening’

April 11th, 2007 - by admin

CBC News – 2007-04-11 22:48:09

TORONTO (April 11, 2007) — Iraqi civilians are forced to endure “unbearable and unacceptable” suffering in daily life in an “ever-worsening” humanitarian crisis, a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday.

The ICRC said it released the report because the international community has grown accustomed to hearing about the number of dead in Iraq and is becoming desensitized to the human face of the crisis.

It is difficult to determine the numbers of people killed in shootings, bombings and military operations, but the overall picture of what is happening in the country has been steadily deteriorating, with the ranks of refugees swelling, medical staff fleeing and other problems growing, said the ICRC’s director of operations, Pierre Krahenbuhl.

“The suffering that Iraqi men, women and children are enduring today is unbearable and unacceptable. Their lives and dignity are continuously under threat,” he said.

Security Improved in Some Areas
Remaining neutral, the report doesn’t point fingers at any group specifically for directly causing the worsening conditions. But it does say no one has done enough to protect ordinary Iraqis’ lives.

“The ICRC calls on all those who can influence the situation on the ground to act now to ensure that the lives of ordinary people are spared and protected. This is an obligation under international humanitarian law for both states and non-state actors,” Krahenbuhl said.

The report also acknowledges that security in some areas of Iraq has improved as a result of stepped-up efforts by U.S.-led multinational forces. But the central region, including Baghdad, remains greatly affected, despite American efforts to secure the capital.

Red Cross spokeswoman Leila Blacking told CBC News in London that four years after the U.S.-led invasion, Iraqi women told her their greatest fear was that there was no one to remove the dead bodies from the streets.

“When they got up in the morning to take their children to school, their greatest fear was that they were unable to protect their children from seeing this,” she said.

Refugee Crisis Growing
The number of civilians being forced to flee their homes has increased significantly since the February 2006 bombing of the sacred Shia shrine of Samarra and the subsequent increase in violence, the report said.

“Thousands of Iraqis continue to be forced out of their homes owing to military operations, general poor security and the destruction of houses,” it said.

The report added the displacement problem in Baghdad and other areas with mixed communities is likely to worsen.

Iraqi officials informed the Red Cross that more than half of Iraq’s registered doctors have fled the country just as the daily violence has stretched the health-care system to the breaking point, the ICRC’s Nada Doumani told CBC News Wednesday in an interview from Jordan.

“Health-care facilities have difficulties to cope with mass casualties when you have a huge influx of wounded people,” she said. “The medical staff is shrinking.”

Andrew White, the Anglican vicar of Baghdad, said he agrees with the report’s findings and wants to see a reduction in violence, as well the restoration of basic services such as water, electricity and food.

“What we see on our television screens does not demonstrate even one per cent of the reality of the atrocity of Iraq today,” he told CBC News Wednesday.

“Things are so terrible here.”

It is so dangerous for Red Cross workers to move around in Baghdad that it’s impossible for the report to recreate a full picture of how bad daily life is, Krahenbuhl said.

“We’re certainly not seeing an immediate effect in terms of stabilization for civilians currently,” he said. “That is not our reading.”

With files from the Associated Press

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