UN launches massive $2.2 billion appeal for humanitarian relief in Iraq
The United Nations today launched a $2.2 billion emergency appeal for immediate humanitarian assistance for the people of Iraq over the next six months, with $1.3 billion devoted to a massive food aid operation.
Officially launching the appeal at UN Headquarters in New York, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette noted that the war had been raging for more than a week, and that much of the Iraqi population was already in urgent need, and more undoubtedly would be in the days and weeks ahead.
"The war is now creating acute new needs, and that is why we are appealing for new money today," Ms. Fréchette said. She also noted that while international UN staff have been temporarily withdrawn from Iraq, more than 3,000 national staff continue to provide assistance and support to the Iraqi people.
The World Food Programme (WFP) said the $1.3 billion food sector of the appeal, for which it will be responsible, could evolve into the largest humanitarian operation in history, assuring the needs of some 27.1 million people.
The UN warned that the emergency needs of the Iraqi people also went beyond food, and said the appeal includes provisions for refugees both inside Iraq and in neighbouring countries and other vulnerable groups.
"It is painfully evident that the international community must act immediately to prepare for all eventualities and in order to avert disaster," the UN said in a statement. "The most vulnerable members of the population, women and children, are at greatest risk."
Household food stocks were already in short supply in some areas of Iraq and were likely to become further strained, according to the UN. "Prolonged hostilities may therefore result in a serious humanitarian crisis amongst a population already rendered vulnerable by poverty and seriously degraded services," the statement said.
Aside from food supplies, the appeal also covers such assistance as the provision of potable water to the general population; health and nutrition help to children, lactating mothers, the elderly and infirm; and shelter, de-mining operations and emergency infrastructure repairs.
In Rome, the WFP said that with the majority of Iraqis set to exhaust their food reserves by May, the agency planned to support a food distribution system capable of meeting the needs of the entire population of 27.1 million people.
Since the suspension on 17 March of the UN's Oil-for-Food programme, which allows Baghdad to use a portion of its oil revenues for humanitarian supplies and is the only source of sustenance for 60 per cent of the population, the clock was ticking and the poorest Iraqis were expected to run out of food soon, WFP said.
"Every day that passes without orders for food, ships and trucks could be another day of suffering for Iraqi civilians," WFP Executive Director James Morris declared. "We cannot afford to lose time."
While pointing out that the appeal was an additional call for humanitarian aid for Iraq, Ms. Fréchette stressed that it should not be counted against existing emergencies in other parts of the world.
"Therefore it is vital that the response to this appeal - which I hope will be swift and generous - should be genuinely additional to, and not at the expense of, the efforts that donors are already making to relieve those other victims," she said.
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