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Red Cross to increase presence in Iraq

Another day, another suicide bombing in Iraq, this time in Ramadi Keystone

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has announced it will scale up its operations in Iraq to provide more aid for hundreds of thousands of people.

This content was published on May 7, 2007 - 19:39

The Swiss-run organisation said on Monday that Iraqis were struggling to survive, a month after warning the security situation in the country was getting worse.

"This conflict is inflicting immense suffering on all Iraqis," said Beatrice Mégevand-Roggo, head of Middle East operations for the Geneva-based ICRC. "People directly affected by the crisis are finding it increasingly difficult to cope."

The organisation said it was seeking SFr35 million ($28.9 million), to fund the expansion of its relief work bringing its total 2007 budget for Iraq to more than SFr91 million.

The additional funds will be used to improve health care and provide clean water and sanitation services for the growing numbers of Iraqis being uprooted from their homes, particularly the elderly, the disabled, orphans and households headed by women according to the ICRC.

The money will also go to the communities where displaced people are fleeing to, the organisation said, adding that its new target of reaching 110,000 destitute households – around 660,000 people - is twice what it originally had aimed for this year.

"We realise that whatever we do will not be enough to answer Iraq's huge needs," the head of Middle East operations admitted, adding that anywhere else the level of violence would be considered unacceptable.

Overall, some 850,000 Iraqis are currently displaced within the country, an increase from 500,000 at the beginning of the year. The number is constantly in flux in the current "deteriorating situation," with many of the refugees able to escape to neighbouring countries, she said.

"It's a constant movement of people who have to flee their homes, their neighborhoods," Megevand-Roggo said. "There are people who have to flee their house from one hour to the next because they receive threats or they are simply expelled."

More staff

The ICRC plans to increase its staff and operations in Iraq, opening new offices in the south and in the northwest and central west, and to boost the delivery of supplies through its partner organization, the Iraqi Red Crescent, which has 1,500 employees and 9,000 volunteers.

The number of international ICRC staff based in Iraq and Amman, Jordan will increase to 69 from 57, while the Iraqis will increase to 456 from 415.

Last month, the neutral body issued a report that went beyond its usual appeals for all sides to protect civilians as required by the Geneva Conventions.

The report, "Civilians without Protection: The Ever-Worsening Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq," said millions of Iraqis were in a "disastrous" situation that was getting worse.

It quoted mothers appealing for someone to pick up the bodies on the street so their children will be spared the horror of looking at them on their way to school, and said thousands of bodies lied unclaimed in mortuaries, with family members either unaware that they were there or too afraid to recover them.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Deaths in Iraq:

US-led coalition forces:

United States: 3,357
Britain: 147
Other nations: 125

Iraqis:

Military: no figures available
Civilians: between 62,770 and 68,796 according to the Iraq body count website

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Fleeing Iraq

Up to 50,000 people leave Iraq every month, according to the UN refugee agency.

So far, more than two million Iraqis have fled abroad, mostly to countries bordering their homeland.

Switzerland has taken in about 5,000 Iraqi refugees.

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