(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Red Crescent gradually resumes its work

Afif Sarhan/IRIN

The Iraq Red Crescent is steadily resuming its work in Baghdad after it suspended its activities in the capital for more than three weeks following the kidnapping by militants of its staff members and volunteers on 17 December 2006.

Of the 30 staff members kidnapped from the heavily guarded Red Crescent headquarters, 10 are yet to be released.

The aid agency has been the main conduit for the distribution of supplies, food and non-food items, countrywide, according to the Ministry of Displacement and Migration and local aid agencies. Thousands of families became desperate after the suspension of the Red Crescent’s work in Baghdad and the closure of 40 of its subsidiary offices in the capital.

“The main activities of the Iraq Red Crescent, Baghdad branch were to provide assistance to internally displaced peoples and distribute messages to and from detainees. These activities, which were suspended, have resumed progressively,” Nada Doumani, spokeswoman of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), told IRIN.

Since February 2006, the Red Crescent has been giving aid to about 245,000 people out of the 450,000 who became internally displaced in Iraq since that time.

The organisation has also been helping other groups of people who had been displaced before 2006. In addition, in coordination with the ICRC and local NGOs, the Red Crescent supplied food and non-food items to another 42,000 families throughout Iraq in 2006.

According to Doumani, the aid agency has slowly resumed its work, although it is changing its mode of operation for security reasons.

Local staff working for the Red Crescent prefer to keep a low profile and have been reluctant to speak to the media until all remaining staff who were kidnapped last month are released.

“There are 13 people who are still being held by the kidnappers. Ten out of the 13 are from the Iraqi Red Crescent,” Doumani said.

But even with the resumption of the Red Crescent’s work in the capital, thousands of displaced Iraqis urgently require aid assistance.

Doumani said the needs of such displaced families are immense, including appropriate shelter, water, food as well as access to medical care. “In addition, displaced people are unemployed and most of their children no longer attend school,” she said.

Displaced families have welcomed the Red Crescent’s resumption of its work.

“When we saw Red Crescent volunteers delivering aid to our camp we couldn’t believe it,” said Marood Ibraheem, 45, a displaced person who is living in an improvised camp on the outskirts of Baghdad. “We regained our hope to live because since they suspended their assistance, we were drinking dirty water and sharing a day’s food to make it last for the whole week.”

as/ar/ed

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