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Iraq: UN aid agencies appeal for emergency funds for health and other relief

Iraq: UN aid agencies appeal for emergency funds for health and other relief

With water shortages still posing a major concern in Iraq, United Nations aid agencies today appealed for a swifter and more generous response to the $2.2 billion UN appeal launched last week to tackle growing health and other emergencies.

Unless more money is forthcoming to help tackle the health needs of the Iraqi people, children will die unnecessarily of diarrhoeal disease, women will die in childbirth and there will be a chronic shortage of medicines and other medical supplies in increasingly hard-pressed hospitals, the World Health Organization (WHO) told the daily briefing in Amman, Jordan, on UN humanitarian activities.

Spokesperson Fadela Chaib said that six days after appealing for more than $300 million to support the urgent health needs of the Iraqi people over the next six months, WHO had received only $3 million.

For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP), while welcoming a $200 million contribution from the United States to its appeal to support the food distribution system in Iraq, noted that there was usually a long lag time between having a donation from a donor confirmed and bringing food into the final distribution centres in a recipient country.

"We are hopeful that when the Iraqis' needs become really pressing early next month, that WFP be in a position to help replenish the existing food distribution system in Iraq," spokesman Khaled Mansour said. The total funding received so far for its appeal is nearly $315 million, or about 24 per cent of the amount sought last week.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) followed up its appeal for $86 million with a warning that the conflict could devastate Iraq's rural economy, with consequences on the country's capacity to produce food.

The agency said in a statement in Rome that Iraq's farmers would require seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, machinery, fuel, spare parts and other tools they need to plant, harvest and secure current and future crops.

Warning that any disruption to the water supply, which provides both drinking water and irrigation, would damage crops and livestock production, FAO said provision had also been made in its appeal for pipes, pumps, drills and technical expertise required to set-up emergency water supplies and repair damaged irrigation networks, if needed.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (UNHCOI) reported that Water treatment plants in Ramadi and Felluja in western Iraq, in Iskandaria and Mamoudiyah, south of Baghdad, and in Hilla, were operating at between 40 and 50 per cent of their capacity owing to power cuts.

In Erbil, in the north, water quality tests showed that contamination has increased to 15.2 per cent from 11.8 per cent in one month, spokesman David Wimhurst told the Amman briefing. In Basra, he said, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had succeeded in operating three back-up generators at the Wafa'al Qaed pumping station, increasing the availability of water. The food situation there did not appear to be critical.

The ICRC also reported that medical facilities in Hilla had difficulties coping with the large influx of war-wounded, most of whom were women and children, and local authorities reported that the water situation was critical, he added.

WHO said it had received reports that a hospital compound on the outskirts of Baghdad including a maternity hospital, a surgical hospital, and the headquarters of the Iraq Red Crescent Society, was badly damaged last night Although no casualties were reported, and since both hospitals and the Red Crescent building had been recently evacuated, the agency urgently reminded all parties to fully respect the neutrality of medical facilities and staff.

For its part, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) continued to be deeply concerned about the impact of this war on the children and women in Iraq. "We continue to urge the parties to this conflict to take all necessary action to protect the lives of innocent civilians," spokesman Geoffrey Keele said.

The UN High Commissioner for the Refugees (UNHCR) said there had still not been any significant refugee movements since the war began two weeks ago.