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Water transporters head for Iraq

The three transporters were bought at a cost of SFr60,000 each

(swissinfo.ch)

The Swiss Red Cross has sent three transporters to Iraq to distribute much-needed water around the country.

The donation is in response to an urgent appeal to national Red Cross agencies by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for help in delivering clean water to Iraqis.

The ICRC said on Sunday that a lack of water and power was crippling Baghdad hospitals, which were struggling to treat the sick and wounded.

The agency said many other parts of the country were also affected.

Peter Stampfli from the Swiss Red Cross said there had been a swift response to the ICRC's call for help, with the organisation managing to buy three new transporters within hours, at a cost of SFr60,000 ($43,000) each.

"We looked through the Swiss second-hand car market, but, as you can imagine, it's not that easy to find three transporters that fit the ICRC's criteria," Stampfli told swissinfo.

"The transporters have to be relatively new and in good nick."

Middle East

Stampfli said the Red Cross normally bought used vehicles locally, but this rule did not apply to the Middle East.

"People there drive their vehicles into the ground until they no longer work," he explained.

The tankers also had to be scrupulously clean in order to carry water, Stampfli added.

"[Once they arrive] they'll be used to transport water to special containers where people will be able to access it, so they'll constantly be en route."

The Bern-based Swiss Red Cross is also sending thousands of emergency medical and cooking kits to the region.

Water shortage

The carriers, resprayed white, headed off to Iraq on Monday. Two were flown out by plane into Kuwait.

The third carrier, which is too large to fit into a plane, will travel on land from Geneva to the Balkans, down to Istanbul and into Jordan.

Stampfli said the vehicles would probably be used in southern Iraq, where water was already in short supply prior to the United States-led invasion.

"We know that the destruction in the countryside and in the smaller towns is huge," says Stampfli.

He added that the transporters would be handed over to local Red Cross agencies after the initial crisis period was over.

"Our vehicles will probably be used to carry water in Iraq for probably well over a decade."

Emergency kits

More than 7,000 cooking sets are also due to be dispatched to Iraq by the Swiss Red Cross in the coming days, for use by civilians who have fled their home towns.

"Many Iraqis have become refugees in their own country," said Stampfli, adding that many people on the move had food but not the means to prepare them.

Each set contains enough aluminium pots, pans and plates for five people. Another 600 medical sets are being sent to civilian and military hospitals.

Stampfli said this was just the start of a flood of supplies due to pour into Iraq in the coming months.

"Iraq will need help for a long time to come."

swissinfo, Urs Maurer (translation: Vanessa Mock)

Key facts

The Swiss Red Cross has sent three water transporters to Iraq, worth SFr60,000 each.
The vehicles are likely to be sent to southern Iraq, where clean water is in short supply.
Another 7,000 emergency cooking kits and 600 medical sets will be despatched later this week.

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