Report Finds Dire Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq

July 30, 2007

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/30/world/middleeast/30cnd-Iraq.html

Report Finds Dire Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq

AMMAN, Jordan, July 30 — Poverty, hunger and public health continue to worsen in Iraq, according to a report released today from Oxfam International, which demands more humanitarian aid from abroad and calls on the Iraqi government to immediately decentralize the distribution of food and medical supplies.

The report, a compendium of research from the United Nations, the Iraqi government and non-profit organizations that Oxfam works with or funds, offers little original data, but it provides one of the most comprehensive pictures to date of the humanitarian crisis within Iraq, and what it describes as a slow-motion response from Iraq’s government, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union.

The report states that as many as four million Iraqis are in dire need of help getting food, many of them children; 70 percent of the country now lacks access to adequate water supplies, up from 50 percent in 2003, and 90 percent of the country’s hospitals lack basic medical and surgical supplies.

One survey cited in the report, completed in May by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning, found that 43 percent of Iraqis live in “absolute poverty,” on less than $1 a day.

Unemployment and hunger are particularly acute among the estimated two million people displaced from their homes by violence — those who “have no incomes and are running out of coping mechanisms,” the report says.

The solutions proposed by Oxfam, an international aid organization that opposed the 2003 American invasion and helps groups in Iraq from an office in Amman, focus on both Iraqi policy and international funding.

Specifically, the report calls on Iraq to expand and decentralize its distribution of food rations and emergency cash payments to widows. Medical and other aid supplies, currently kept in seven Baghdad warehouses, should be pushed out to the provinces and managed by local authorities rather than the inefficient central government, the report says.

Citing policies of non-governmental organizations in Iraq that restrict the acceptance of money from countries involved in the country’s conflict, Oxfam also called on countries without troops in Iraq to send more money for aid. According to the report, funding cuts and the challenges of providing assistance in an insecure environment have limited what the United Nations and its partners can do for Iraqis. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, for example, used to work with 20 partners in Iraq; it now has only 11, the report says.

“The government of Iraq, international donors, and the United Nations system have been focused on reconstruction, development, and building political institutions and have overlooked the harsh daily struggle for survival now faced by many,” the report says.

Oxfam’s analysis offers no suggestions for how to root out the corruption that has hobbled the Iraqi government and international aid efforts in the past, nor does it address the links between criminal militias and Iraqi government agencies, like the Ministry of Health, which is run by the political party loyal to Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

It focuses almost exclusively on the need for more money and the better distribution of aid.

Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq analyst at the International Crisis Group, an organization of experts on conflicts, said that at this point in Iraq, the focus is justified. Corruption, he said, is beyond the purview of groups like Oxfam and the lack of organized aid needs to be immediately addressed.

“The priority,” he said, “is to get aid going regardless of such problems.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: