Endless Bad News

Red Cross details ‘unbearable suffering’ of Iraqi civilians
Ian Black, Middle East editor
Wednesday April 11, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Iraqi civilians are experiencing “immense suffering” because of a “disastrous” security situation, deepening poverty and a worsening humanitarian crisis, according to a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The ICRC also sees no sign that the US-led security “surge” in Baghdad is bringing relief to the capital, while hospitals struggle to cope with mass casualties as malnutrition as well as power and water shortages become more frequent across the country.

“The suffering Iraqi men, women and children are enduring today is unbearable and unacceptable,” Pierre Kraehenbuehl, director of operations for the organisation, said at the group’s Geneva headquarters.

The report, Civilians without Protection, provides a grim snapshot of the situation in Iraq but will carry special weight thanks to the ICRC’s reputation as the scrupulously neutral “silent service” of international humanitarian work. It maintains a presence in Baghdad despite the bombing of its offices in 2003, and works closely with the Iraqi Red Crescent.

The report says that more than 100,000 families have been forced to leave their homes in the past year because of the shootings, bombings, abductions, murders and military operations.

“Every day dozens of people are killed and many more wounded,” it says. “The plight of Iraqi civilians is a daily reminder of the fact that there has long been a failure to respect their lives and dignity.”

Saad, a humanitarian worker, is quoted as recalling the scene after a bomb blast: “I saw a four-year-old boy sitting beside his mother’s body, which had been decapitated by the explosion. He was talking to her, asking her what had happened.”

The report quotes a woman as saying: “If there’s anything anybody could do that would really help us, it would be to help collect the bodies that line the streets in front of our homes every morning and that we find nobody dares touch or remove.” It was “simply unbearable” to face them every morning on the way to school.

Medical services are in dire straits, with many health workers fleeing the country after the deaths or abductions of colleagues. At Baghdad’s al-Kindi hospital only 40 of the 208 surgeons who used to work there are now still on duty.

Read more here.

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