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Amid new aid to Iraq UN reports new pillaging of already looted facilities

Amid new aid to Iraq UN reports new pillaging of already looted facilities

United Nations aid agencies opened a new health corridor into Iraq today, prepared to receive fresh food supplies and reported a further resumption of international work within the country, but they warned of a continuing lack of security that included looting of facilities that had been restocked and repaired after previous pillaging.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (OHCI) told the daily briefing in Amman, Jordan, that Baghdad and its environs remained insecure despite coalition efforts. This might be partly due to the prevalence of ammunition dumps and widespread availability of weapons in the market, coupled with growing frustration amongst the population, spokesman Ali Hamati said.

Looting continued as armed groups pillaged facilities that had been re-equipped and repaired, he added. Of particular concern was the severe and consistent looting of the Rustumiya sewage treatment plant. The coalition had been asked to protect the facility but looters were still able to gain access and UNOHCI was pursuing the matter with the United States military command.

Waste from three million people, around 60 per cent of Baghdad residents, was being pumped untreated into the Tigris River from Rustumiya, Mr. Hamati said. The plant could not be fully operational and repaired unless security and looting ceased. Armed groups had also harassed workers at electricity sub-stations, he added.

In better news for Baghdad's residents, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced its first medical shipment to Iraq from Iran - 20 tons of high protein biscuits, 100 boxes of oral re-hydration salts and 10 emergency health kits, enough for 100,000 people for three months.

The convoy was expected to pave the way for similar ventures, according to Kari Egge, UNICEF Representative in Teheran. "The distance from the Khosravi border point to Baghdad is just 160 kilometres," she said. "Given that proximity, the route has an important potential as a corridor for relief aid into central Iraq." Similar convoys would be leaving for Baghdad and other major cities in the coming days and weeks, she added.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) said the past week saw a concrete re-start of its operations in Iraq with the arrival of four international technical staff in Erbil to resume their duties as part of the Electricity Network Rehabilitation Programme looking into urgent requirements in the three Northern governorates.

In the south, the UNDP unit in Kuwait secured power generation equipment and a fuel pump for the emergency needs of water pumping/treatment station in Al-Zubair and a hospital in Nassiriyah, spokesman Pavel Kral said. As a result, Al-Zubair's population of 400,000 now had access to potable water and the hospital can now store its supplies of vaccines safely.

For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced that two ships were due to berth at Aqaba, Jordan, today with 38,500 tons of food. Inside Iraq, the first convoy of food since the war started, arrived in Nassiriyah in the south with 880 tons of flour, enough for 100,000 people for a month, spokesman Khaled Mansour said.