Iraq: Who pays the cost? N° 2

On April 14th 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 N° 2 – April 14, 2003


1. Humanitarian Conditions throughout Iraq

2. Relief Actions

3. Iraqi Al-Amal in Action

1. Humanitarian Conditions throughout Iraq

Looting and Chaos:

A wave of disturbance and chaos prevailed in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul and other parts of Iraq. Governmental buildings, schools, embassies and hospitals and water-supply installations have been raid. Several ministries and Baath party offices were set on fire. While some looters were armed, others were accompanied by entire families including young children. Some Baghdad residents, however, attacked looters and blockaded streets in an attempt to quell the escalating looting and lawlessness in the city. Looting was also reported to have eased somewhat in Basra.

The UN has urged the coalition forces to provide security saying their inability to rein in looting mobs threatened to deepen the humanitarian and health crisis in Iraq, as an occupying force has a duty, according to Geneva Convention, to maintain security and order.

Violence Escalates:

Reports say vengeance killings have begun to emerge as Iraqi civilians and uncontrolled armed groups begin searching for suspected supporters of Saddam Hussein. In this context, Human Rights Watch has called upon the Kurdish authorities to go beyond making general appeals to returning families that no reprisals be carried out against Arab families settled by the Iraqi government in Kirkuk. There are serious fears concerning the reoccurrence of what happened during the brief 1991 uprisings, when vengeance killings took the lives of thousands of people who were suspected of links to the government of Saddam Hussein, many of whom were innocent civilians.

Health Facilities Suffer Set-Backs:

WHO spokesperson has said even Baghdad hospitals, whose medical supplies are running out of stock, have not been spared by looting mobs. The city's medical system has all but collapsed because of combat damage, looting and fear of anarchy, reported ICRC. Hospitals in Baghdad are closed because of looting and fear of looting, and even ambulances are being stopped and looted by armed individuals.

Hardly any medical or support staff are still reporting for work. Some patients have either fled the hospitals or have been left without care. Dead left unattended, the increasing summer heat as well as deteriorating water and electricity supplies create a high risk of epidemic disease. Reportedly, hospitals in many parts of Iraq are currently relying on generators for electricity following interruptions to the power supply.

Lack of Food:

Fighting has disrupted the food supply in Iraq, where, even before war started, as many as 16 million Iraqis relied on UN food aid. Although the rate of child malnutrition actually improved in 2001, UNICEF’s latest survey in February 2002 revealed that close to one million children under five – nearly one-quarter of all children – still suffer from chronic malnutrition. Preliminary observations by Save the Children-UK have found that one in five people in northern Iraq had no food stocks at all, and were surviving on a day-to-day basis.

Reportedly, many people in Iraqi Kurdistan, worried about chemical attacks, have sold their food rations to buy plastic sheeting to cover their houses.

Serious Water Crisis:

As temperature rises, a serious lack of clean drinking water has been described by aid agencies as the biggest problem facing the war-affected people of southern Iraq. The water supply to parts of Basra, the country's second largest city, and reportedly also to most towns in southern Iraq remains disrupted. A water pipeline linking the Wafa' Al-Qaed water-pumping station to the town of Safwan has been damaged by people stealing water, which has left the town without water. The country’s main source of water, the Tigris, receives half a million tonnes of raw or partially-treated sewage each day. Half of all sewage treatment plants do not work. Of those that do, one-quarter do not meet Iraq’s own environmental standards.

Electricity Down in the South:

Power cuts remain frequent in Basra and most towns in southern Iraq. Umm Qasr'sport was reported by the UN agencies to be in "excellent" condition, but without electricity!


Large groups of Iraqis and other foreign nationals are still moving from Baghdad and other cities, trying to find security and safety, reported UNHCR. Besides, Up to 30,000 displaced Iraqis have reportedly reached the Iraqi border town of Badrah, near western Iran, seeking assistance after fleeing fighting in Baghdad and Nassiriya earlier this week. Iranian authorities have sent food, water and medicine to Badrah, a town of about 6,000. More aid is, however, being requested. Iraqi taxi drivers arriving at Jordan's Al Karama border have said they saw many people gathered at Ramadi, about two hours west of Baghdad.

2. Relief Actions

Too Little Too Late:

Lack of coordination, insufficiency or delay in funding as well as bureaucratic impediments has lead to the reality that no relief agency has been prepared as it should be for the emergency situation in Iraq.

Iraq has been declared an emergency state, and the carrying out of relief work within Iraq has therefore become extremely urgent. Iraq has already faced a prolonged humanitarian crisis due to economic sanctions. It was reported last week that the UNICEF Iraq appeal has received just one fifth of the funding it needs in order to continue its operations in Iraq. The UN has so far received only $350 m. out of the $2.2 bn. that it has estimated will be needed for its relief work in Iraq for a duration of 6 months. The shipments being delivered by various parties to Iraq are surely not enough. Up to 16,000 tonnes of aid will be needed every day.

Chaos Hampers Humanitarian Aid:

International aid officials said that desperately needed aid to Iraq could be delayed unless U.S. and British troops impose law and order and prevent a slide to anarchy. UNICEF has warned that despite significant progress in humanitarian cross-border trucking operations, UNICEF’s efforts to reach Iraqi children and women are being significantly hampered by what it called “a residue of fear and chaos". Two other humanitarian organisations that had operated throughout the war, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Médecinssans Frontières (MSF), said their work had been hobbled by the “general lawlessness”.

3. Iraqi Al-Amal in Action

Al-Amal Maternity Mobile Clinic:

Iraqi Al-Amal, in association with the Norwegian People's Aid (NPA), has set up a maternity mobile clinic in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The clinic, staffed by a doctor and assistants, has been touring villages and settlements since 7 April providing investigations, medication, special food and medicine as well as counselling and health awareness. Lately, the clinic visited villages in Kirkuk area and will continue to cover the region as far as Mosul. However, Al-Amal, in conjunction with international partners, is seeking to set up other mobile clinics and teams in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq as the security situation permits.

Food and Medicine Aids:

Two 20-tonne lorriescarrying food and medicine are on their way to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Aids are going to be distributed to 350 families in Erbil, 300 in Sulaimaniyah and 200 in Kalar, who are believed to be the most vulnerable and in critical need for food and/or medication. This aid comes as a result of the campaign that Secours Populaire Francais (SPF) has carried out in France on behalf of IAA to collect donations.


With the aim of mobilising international public opinion and NGO’s and making them aware of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and the consequences of the US-led invasion, Iraqi Al-Amal have held and participated in many activities. A press conference for Al-Amal representatives in France was held in Leon on April 3, in the presence and participation of representatives from SPF. Another delegate travelled to Barcelona, Spain between March 29 and April 1 in response to the invitation made by the Catalan Association for Peace (ACP), where she met a number of Catalan organisations and communities.

Al-Amal branch in the US, in association with a number of Iraqi communities and parties, has formed the Network of Iraqi American Organizations, which brought together an unprecedented wide variety of groups representing the diversity and ethnicities of the Iraqi community.


Since the breakout of war in Iraq, many foreign individuals have offered to help Al-Amal in various field. In Damascus, a number of young people from Ireland, Britain and Germany, most of whom are studying Arabic language in Syria, have contacted the Head Office and are now helping in various matters. Some of them are, in addition to this, collecting donations in aid of Iraqi people.

Otherwise, Iraqi Al-Amal is carrying out a campaign among the Iraqi community in Britain with the aim of setting up teams of volunteers willing to contribute to the humanitarian relief action in Iraq.