UN relief agencies report slow improvement in Iraq, but situation still ‘precarious’

22 April 2003

United Nations relief agencies reported a slow improvement today in the humanitarian situation in Iraq but there were still many areas for concern, with spokesmen describing the state of affairs as “precarious” and “tense.”

A new corridor for food supplies was opened, more doctors were returning to hospitals, water supply had improved and the electricity was back on in scattered areas of Baghdad.

This was a very positive sign, although most of the city remained in darkness, and this continued to affect hospitals, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) told the daily briefing in Amman, Jordan, on UN humanitarian activities.

“The news we're getting from our staff in Baghdad today is marginally more reassuring,” spokesman Geoffrey Keele said. “Our officers tell us that the condition of the health and other vital public services is no longer deteriorating, and that the situation is starting to stabilize. But things have stabilized at a very low level that still leaves the most vulnerable section of Iraqi society – its children – at great risk. Many needs remain to be met.”

He said UNICEF staff were approached today by Education Ministry officials seeking help in restarting the country’s education system, and the agency hoped to get a positive response from coalition authorities soon. But, he warned, despite these improvements, a return to normal life in Iraq remained a long way off.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (UNOHCI) also said the humanitarian situation was slowly improving but remained precarious. In Baghdad, the lack of security continued to impede activities by UN agencies, spokesman David Wimhurst said. Water was now being supplied to most parts of the city, but the sanitation situation remains extremely critical and threatened public health, he added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that health assessments in Baghdad, Tikrit and Mosul showed the situation was improving, but still tense. The WHO Baghdad office was operational, with staff working in temporary premises with communications and computer equipment since the previous office was completely damaged and looted, spokesperson Fadela Chaib said. WHO had recovered two of its looted vehicles and would continue to work to recover other vehicles around the city.

The World Food Programme (WFP) announced the opening of a new food corridor into Iraq, its fourth, with the departure of 20 trucks from Damascus, Syria, for Mosul with 1,000 tons of wheat flour, enough for more than 110,000 people for a month. The WFP shipped food into Iraq from Jordan and Iran over the weekend and has been operating a corridor into northern Iraq from Turkey for almost three weeks.

 

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