Underscoring the belief of Secretary-General Kofi Annan that war in Iraq is not inevitable, a senior United Nations relief official today outlined the world body's plans for humanitarian assistance to that country in the event of armed conflict.
Speaking at a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, Kenzo Oshima, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, stressed that contingency planning by the UN should not be misconstrued as indication to the contrary.
"The Secretary-General continues to believe that inspections can work and that all avenues should be explored to find a peaceful solution," he said. "But it is also important to underline that it is the responsibility of the United Nations to be ready for any contingency in Iraq, as indeed, anywhere else."
Mr. Oshima's briefing came after the Secretary-General gave an informal presentation earlier Thursday to Security Council members on the status of humanitarian contingency planning for Iraq by the UN Secretariat.
Under a "medium-case scenario" used in its planning assumptions, Mr. Oshima said that up to 10 million people - which would include internally displaced persons, refugees and the general public - may require food assistance during and immediately after the start of the conflict, while up to half of the population may be without access to potable water. He added that 2 million people could become internally displaced, and that there was the potential for between 600,000 to 1.45 million refugees and asylum seekers.
The Under-Secretary-General said the UN's role will be to make sure that enough measures are in place that will allow the UN and the international humanitarian community to alleviate suffering and provide life-saving assistance. "Of course parties to the conflict will be expected to meet their obligations to protect and assist civilian populations under international humanitarian law," he added.
of press briefing