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UN launches new emergency aid appeal

A mother holds her sick baby while an Iraqi doctor gives the child an IV at the Children's Hospital in Muqdadiyah, Iraq. New aid money will go to the most vulnerable Iraqis
Baghdad has at least 11 medical centres serving HIV/AIDS patients and there is also a centre in each province (file photo) (DVIC)

The Iraqi government has welcomed the US$265 million emergency aid appeal launched on 12 February by UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide urgent humanitarian relief to vulnerable Iraqis.

The aid will target health, nutrition, water, education, housing, food and protection issues.

The emergency appeal by 14 UN agencies and 10 NGOs aims to help fill critical gaps over the next 12 months while the government expands its capacity to respond to people’s needs, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said.

“The aid community is committed to helping as humanitarian needs in Iraq have risen sharply over the last two years. We have to respond rapidly to those people who need support,” David Shearer, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said at the appeal launch in Baghdad.

The government said it was setting up a special government office to facilitate the work of humanitarian agencies in Iraq.

Responding to the emergency appeal, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement: “No one can deny that the general situation in Iraq is a very critical one… We are facing a catastrophe and crisis as a result of war and destruction of the infrastructure.”

Al-Dabbagh said Iraqis needed donor help with capacity-building in government and private institutions. “We face a tremendous challenge in Iraq with the destruction of electricity, water and sanitation plants and other essential services,” he said.

Four million need food aid

The UN estimates that four million Iraqis inside the country are in need of food assistance as the Public Distribution System (PDS) is weakened, and only 40 percent of the population has reliable access to safe drinking water.

At least 2.4 million people inside Iraq are believed to have been displaced from their homes.

''This mission is likely to be very tough for all the UN agencies, NGOs, as well as the Iraqi government, with widespread corruption in the country and danger lurking in every corner in Iraq.''

Doubts expressed

An Iraqi expert has expressed doubt about the appeal. Ezzi Abdul-Jabbar Mohammed of the NGO Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies, told IRIN: “It is easy to call for such money but the question is how do you establish a comprehensive database of the most needy families?”

“This mission is likely to be very tough for all the UN agencies, NGOs, as well as the Iraqi government, with widespread corruption in the country and danger lurking in every corner in Iraq,” Mohammed said.

He said that since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003 “Iraq has become a charity state; instead of getting to the bottom of its problems it only seeks financial aid - like morphine to ease its problems.”

Other aid operations

As a result of the difficulties faced by PDS in reaching all corners of Iraq to distribute monthly food and non-food items, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in January 2008 launched a 12-month emergency operation worth US$126 million to provide food aid for up to 750,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and some 360,000 people who have fled to Syria from Iraq.

On 12 February the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched an appeal in Geneva for 20.7 million Swiss francs (US$19 million) to provide food, other supplies and health care in Iraq.

The aid will be distributed by the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) to the 900,000 most vulnerable families on very low incomes, as well as single-parent families and widows over the next year, the IFRC said in a statement.

The IFRC said the IRCS was in the best position to distribute aid because it had over 3,200 employees and 10,000 volunteers.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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