International Committee of the Red Cross,Surgery,Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,Anesthesiologist,Operating theater

Dodging Bullets to Save Iraq’s Kids

February 6, 2017
in Kids

On the frontlines in Iraq, the International Red Cross toils in harm’s way every day to save people who would otherwise suffer without help. SHIKHAN, Iraq—The gleaming surgical kits are lined up with precision—one for amputation, one for excising wounds, another for basic surgery. The surgeon, anesthetist, and nurses are ready in the fresh-scrubbed but very basic operating room, awaiting patients on the way from Mosul’s front line. In the past 24 hours, they’ve saved lives, and limbs, of a young boy and a badly injured anti-ISIS militia member. “If the Red Cross wasn’t here, my son would have lost his leg,” said Nashwan of his 12-year-old, whose leg required delicate but swift surgery to repair it. At the Shikhan Hospital outside Mosul, the operating theater is basic, by design. Everything is pared down to save lives from battlefield trauma as quickly and simply as possible, all the while prepared to flee with those patients in case the battle shifts their way. This is the International Committee of the Red Cross at work. But these frontline professionals find themselves somewhat at sea—under fire by an enemy that does not respect the laws of war, and uncertain that the incoming administration in the White House understands what they do, and will keep funding it. Their concerns reflect that of a wide spectrum of non-governmental agencies who have read draft executive orders from the new Trump administration that aim to pare down U.S. contributions overseas, in deference to rebuilding American infrastructure at home. A draft Trump administration executive order that would re-open CIA “black sites” and ban Red Cross access to detainees caused another wave of concern for an organization founded to spread understanding of the Geneva Conventions, although President Donald Trump has since pledged to reject a return to Bush-era harsh interrogation measures. The organization granted The Daily Beast rare access to their mission in Iraq because they are concerned the incoming administration may not know what they do, or how carefully they count the costs—concern leavened by President Trump’s tweet in December aimed at the United Nations, which he said “has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.” The ICRC has been at pains to point out they work alongside United Nations aid organizations—but they don’t work for them. “We are masters of our own decisions and we are not influenced by security council resolutions or political negotiations about where aid should go,” ICRC operations chief Dominik Stillhart said in an interview. U.S. taxpayers fund a quarter of the ICRC’s $1.6 billion budget, so Stillhart visited Washington, D.C., after the inauguration to explain what America is getting for its investment, and to ask Washington to step up again. In meetings from the Pentagon to Capitol Hill, Stillhart made the case that more than 90 percent of that funding goes to missions overseas, with just 6.5 percent going to administration. The ICRC makes public a 600-page-plus budget every year so donors can track their money (an important distinction as its U.S. cousin, the American Red Cross, has faced controversy over how it spends its own budget). “Our operations have grown by 60 percent in the past four years, whereas our headquarters has remained extremely lean, with growth limited below 15 percent,” Stillhart said. “We are making an effort at becoming more efficient and making sure that… it is spent on operations. It is not spent on bureaucracy in Geneva.” In return for U.S. government funding...

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