Iraq: UN prepared to provide immediate relief in violence-torn in Basra

Iraq: UN prepared to provide immediate relief in violence-torn in Basra

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United Nations humanitarian agencies in Iraq announced today that they are ready to provide assistance in Basra, where a large-scale military operation is under way.

Veronique Taveau of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) voiced concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in both Basra, in the country's south-east, and Sadr City, a neighbourhood in the capital Baghdad. Half of the 3.2 million-strong population of these areas are children, she said.

Basra's inhabitants are drinking tap water, said Ms. Taveau, because of the high salt content and poor quality of the drinking water. UNICEF is equipped to help 70,000 families by providing water and sanitation support, including 39 million water purification tablets and 40,000 sachets of oral rehydration salts to treat young children for diarrhoea.

However, she warned that movement and access to Basra's population is currently impossible.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has prepositioned 1,600 blood bags and trauma kits to treat injuries, while the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has 200 tons of food ready to distribute outside Basra.

For its part, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is prepared to hand out non-food items, such as blankets, cooking stoves and water containers, for up to 8,000 families.