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Iraq: UN agencies urge support for massive humanitarian appeal

Iraq: UN agencies urge support for massive humanitarian appeal

Representatives of United Nations agencies working to deliver humanitarian assistance to the beleaguered people of Iraq today urged donor support for a massive appeal to fund the relief effort.

"This is going to be a huge task," said Khaled Mansour, a spokesman for the World Food Programme (WFP), referring to the agency's $1.3 billion, six-month operation in Iraq. "The main goal is to keep the public distribution system going - a system on which about 60 per cent of the Iraqi population heavily depend for their monthly food rations."

Speaking to reporters in Amman, Mr. Mansour also predicted that the WFP Iraq effort "could evolve into the largest humanitarian operation in history and bring about 1.6 million tons of food."

Thomas McDermont, the Regional Director for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), cautioned that his agency's work on behalf of young Iraqis would only succeed with adequate funding. "We are in need of financial assistance if we are to do our work properly." Working with other UN agencies and international partners, UNICEF will focus its work in Iraq on water and sanitation, education, protection of vulnerable children, nutrition and health.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP), which has been working in Iraq for more than 25 years, is preparing to help in the aftermath of the conflict, focusing on emergency infrastructure repairs, jobs creation and coordination of the effort to rid the country of landmines, according to the agency's Christine McNab. "Reconstruction activities immediately after the end of hostilities must focus on basic humanitarian needs," she stressed.

Speaking for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Sten Bronee said that agency "must work to ensure that countries bordering on Iraq are able to receive any desperate Iraqis who may seek asylum." Governments in the region already shelter more than half the more than 400,000 recognized Iraqi refugees in the world, and UNHCR is helping to prepare for a possible new influx.

For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) is working to cope with the medical impact of the fighting. "The conflict will increase the vulnerability of a large number of people and increase their health risks -people unable to access sufficient nutrients, clean water, air, sanitation, shelter or medicines," noted WHO Representative Ala'a Alwan. In response, the agency plans to provide essential care to those in need.

Speaking for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Ziad Rifai pointed out that "war or no war, more than 2,000 Iraqi women give birth every day." He called on donors to support the agency's bid to provide reproductive health care to all women affected by the conflict.