The United Nations stepped up its relief work in Iraq today, meeting in Baghdad with 30 non-government organizations (NGOs) to coordinate humanitarian operations between them and with the United States-run Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA) as well as with the relevant Iraqi ministries.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ramiro Lopes da Silva, who led UN international relief staff back into the country last week after a six-week war-imposed absence, hosted the meeting at which the NGOs from France, Malaysia, Japan, Italy, Germany and the United States asked him to take on the role of coordinator.
The meeting decided that the UN would host regular talks sector by sector with relevant NGOs and UN agencies in attendance, with the first one taking place today on health issues.
Meanwhile in New York, the UN Office of the Iraq Programme (OIP) announced that priority items in the Oil-for-Food programme's humanitarian pipeline continued to arrive at transit ports in countries neighbouring Iraq.
In the past week, UN agencies have reported the delivery of goods ranging from water tanks to vitamins to school supplies at transshipment areas in Turkey, Kuwait, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Truck convoys are hauling the goods across borders into Iraq once inspection and authentication of the supplies is completed.
The programme, under which sanctions-bound Iraq was allowed to sell oil for humanitarian supplies, and on which 60 per cent of the population depend as the sole source of food, was temporarily halted on 17 March after the withdrawal of all UN staff on the eve of hostilities. The Security Council later adopted resolutions giving Secretary-General Kofi Annan authority to administer the operation until 3 June, including prioritizing deliveries and finding new entry ports to speed their shipment.
Included in the latest shipments are 880 tons of flour, medical equipment, hospital beds and supplies, water and sanitation equipment, first aid kits, multivitamin syrup, medical laboratory and other equipment, education supplies, tarpaulins, turbine engines, water pumps and spare parts, water tanks and tankers, and chlorine gas for water treatment.
The OIP and other UN agencies and programmes continue to identify the most easily accessible priority items in the pipeline and negotiate with suppliers to speed the shipment of supplies under already approved contracts.