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ICRC Says Civilian Suffering in Iraq Unbearable


The International Committee of the Red Cross says the suffering of civilians in Iraq is worsening. In a new report called Civilians Without Protection: The Ever-Worsening Crisis in Iraq, the Red Cross focusses on the daily acts of violence that target Iraqi civilians, calling them a clear violation of international humanitarian law. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The report by the International Committee of the Red Cross says that, four years after the U.S.-led invasion, the conflict in Iraq continues to cause immense suffering and that urgent action must be taken to protect civilians from violence.

ICRC's director of operations, Pierre Kraehenbuhl, says every day civilians are directly caught up in shootings, bombings, abductions, murders and military operations. He says thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety.

"I certainly find these numbers unbearable," said Kraehenbuhl. "But, even more so, our feeling today is to find unbearable the anonymity. The fact that behind the numbers so many destinies remain unknown. The despair of relatives is so difficult to hear."

The report gives a face and a voice to the many anonymous victims. Kraehenbuhl recounts the story of one Iraqi woman who told a Red Cross worker what she considers the top priority of the government.

"The most important thing that anyone could do was to help collect the bodies that lie in the street in front of our homes every morning," he said. "No one dares touching them. But, for us, it is unbearable to have to expose our children to such images every day as we try bringing them to school."

The Red Cross report says daily life is becoming more difficult. It says the quality and quantity of water is insufficient and the lack of electricity and fuel is causing enormous hardship. It says medical care is compromised because more than 50 percent of Iraqi doctors have fled the country.

Kraehenbuhl says the so-called surge in Baghdad, which was launched in February by Iraqi and U.S.forces, appears to him to have done little so far to improve security on the ground.

"We certainly are not seeing an immediate effect in terms of stabilization for civilians currently," said Kraehenbuhl. "That is not our reading. So, I think we have to be honest there about the fact that we do not have on a day-to-day basis the full picture of absolutely every situation, certainly of every part of Baghdad."

"But clearly much more has to be done to improve the situation and security for civilians and that really has to be undertaken by all on the ground," he continued.

The Red Cross provides monthly emergency aid for more than 60,000 Iraqis. The Iraqi Red Crescent handles the bulk of the distributions.

Over the past year, the Red Cross reports it also has delivered medical supplies to hospitals across Iraq for 3,000 war-wounded patients. Red Cross aid workers also continue to visit thousands of detainees, monitoring their treatment.