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Jimmy, Rosalynn Carter Endorse "All Our Children" Campaign
Ecumenical Effort Seeks $1 Million for Health Assistance for Iraqi Children

j0105188.wmf (10986 bytes) All Our Children Web Site

February 13, 2003, NEW YORK CITY -- Whatever happens in Iraq, there will still be a need for medicine/health related items in Iraqi health service institutions, particularly in improving curative health services for Iraqi children.

That’s why seven organizations, including Church World Service and the National Council of Churches, have launched "All Our Children," a campaign to raise $1 million in health assistance for the children of Iraq regardless of what may happen militarily in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday (January 12), Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter endorsed the "All Our Children" campaign. They write:

"We urge all people of compassion to join in supporting the ALL OUR CHILDREN campaign. The immediate goal is to provide emergency medical supplies to save thousands of Iraqi children who are victims of an international situation for which they have no responsibility. We believe that God intends for us always to seek ways to alleviate suffering and to settle differences so that the innocent are not harmed."

The "All Our Children" campaign is the latest step in the American faith community’s humanitarian response in Iraq over the past dozen years. Funds raised will purchase desperately needed items such as antibiotics, anesthesia, IV solution kits and methods for accessing clean drinking water.

During the last 20 years, the children of Iraq have suffered at the hands of both internal and external forces," says the campaign appeal. "The Gulf War in 1991 and more than a decade of sanctions have followed on the heels of a protracted Iraqi war with Iran during the 1980s. Estimates of the number of children who have died run from 500,000 to more than one million."

The United Nations attributes the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children to the trade sanctions in place since 1990. The sanctions have exhausted the resources of many Iraqi families.

Local assessment by non-governmental agencies working in Iraq, including Islamic Relief/International Red Crescent Society and the Medecins du Monde indicate that pressing medical needs include: various medical vaccinations; hospital bed sheets; first aid kits; antibiotics; disposable gloves; surgical sets; working gloves; sutures; infant feeding programs and incubators

"It is a crisis of tragic proportions to which compassionate people of faith in the United States must respond," the "All Our Children" appeal says. "At a time of great anxiety about another war in Iraq, this effort by people in the U.S.A. will be a tangible demonstration of our love for children - a love shared by all humanity."

Church World Service, a global humanitarian agency of the National Council of Churches’ 36 member churches, has provided more than $3 million in blankets, food, medical supplies, "Gift of the Heart" School and Health Kits and other aid for families and children in Iraq during the past five years.

Besides CWS and the NCC, other initial partners in the "All Our Children" campaign are Jubilee Partners, Stop Hunger Now, Lutheran World Relief, Sojourners and the Mennonite Central Committee - which itself has shipped approximately $4.2 million worth of food and material assistance to Iraq in the last decade. MCC also supports a number of agriculture, education and health-related developmental relief projects in Iraq and has had North American personnel in Iraq since 1998.

More on the Health Crisis in Iraq

Non-governmental organizations working in Iraq have, through recent local assessments, identified key problems. In addition to diarrheal disease and acute respiratory infection, the main health problems of Iraqi children include: nutritional anemia, vitamin A deficiency, iodine deficiency, malaria, leishmaniasis (kala azar) and measles.

Chronic under-funding of the health sector, as well as delays in the approval and delivery of essential drugs and medical equipment, have severely compromised the health sector's capacity to respond to a humanitarian emergency.

Despite improvements in drug supply resulting from the Oil-for-Food Program, supplies remain erratic and many essential medications remain unavailable.

Anecdotal evidence from interviews with health workers suggests that hospitals in Iraq's southern and central regions have less than 3 to 4 weeks of reserves of medical supplies, while UNICEF and the Iraqi government's Ministry of Health report that at the present rate of consumption vaccine and drug stocks would likely be sufficient for only four months.

While many hospitals now have generators and can operate for a limited period of time without electricity, in the event of an humanitarian emergency the current situation in hospitals and at primary care clinics would make it difficult for medical staff to provide even the most basic medical care to their patients.

Close to 1 million, and possibly more, Iraqi children have not been vaccinated against measles. Low measles vaccination coverage rates, particularly in older children, in combination with high rates of child malnutrition, place children in imminent danger of a measles epidemic in the event of a war.

Iraq's health-service infrastructure is severely weakened when compared to 1990 levels. While most hospitals are now equipped with generators that would enable them to function for short periods of time, current drugs and medical supply stocks could not withstand a sustained increase in demand for health care services (particularly in the event of an epidemic) and it is likely that hospitals will not be function effectively for more than one month in the event of a humanitarian crisis.

Iraqi children are even more vulnerable now than they were in 1990, before the 1991 Gulf War.

16 million Iraqi civilians are fully dependent on government-distributed food rations. If war breaks out, this distribution system will be disrupted, leading to food shortages, malnutrition and possibly starvation.

There is only an estimated one month's supply of food in Iraq. If war occurs, food imports will be disrupted. Approximately 500,000 Iraqi children are acutely malnourished or underweight. These children are particularly vulnerable to disease and death should war occur. The health care system is worn down and only a fraction of its pre-1991 state. The UN estimates that hospitals and clinics will run out of medicines within 3-4 weeks of a conflict.

The death rate of children under 5 years of age is already 2.5 times greater than it was in 1990. Most children (70 percent) die of diarrheal and respiratory diseases. This greater vulnerability means greater illness and death under conflict circumstances.

Iraq's water and sanitation systems are badly need of repair following 12 years of sanctions. 500,000 metric tons of raw sewage is dumped into fresh water bodies each day. Only 60 percent of Iraqis have access to fresh (potable) water. Further disruption to these services, as occurred during the 1991 Gulf War, would be catastrophic for Iraqi children.

The UN estimates that a war could lead to more than 1.4 million refugees and as many as 2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The United Nations estimates that, in the event of war, as many as 500,000 persons could require emergency medical treatment.

The level of emergency preparedness is currently very low. It will not be enough to respond to the expected humanitarian emergency. In summary, a new war in Iraq would be catastrophic to Iraq's 13 million children, already highly vulnerable due to prolonged economic sanctions. In summary, Iraqi children are at grave risk of starvation, disease, death and psychological trauma.

FURTHER CWS RESPONSE: In addition to this campaign to assist with the medical needs of children, CWS has to date committed the following resources:

CWS Emergency Response Program International Consultant Steve Weaver has been seconded to the office of the Mennonite Central Committee in Amman, Jordan, which is serving as the coordinating office for the "All Our Children" campaign. Weaver has been in Jordan since October and will be the focal point, in cooperation with MCC, the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), a long-time partner of CWS, and other local partners, for the implementation of this effort.

CWS has provided $308,000 worth of school kits which are positioned in Amman, Jordan, for distribution to children recipients. To date CWS has also given cash grants of $48,000 to the MCC for purchasing medicines and hygiene supplies. To date CWS has received some $75,000 in denominational assistance for this effort.

Additional support is needed. Please contribute to the: CHURCH WORLD SERVICE, IRAQ HUMANITARIAN CRISIS Account #6801, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN, 46515.

Phone pledges or credit card donations can be made by calling 1-800-297-1516. On-line contributions to: www.churchworldservice.org

Call the CWS HOTLINE for updates: (800) 297-1516.

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