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Continued Support from All Our Children a Boost
In the Face of Ongoing Humanitarian Need in Iraq

By Chris Herlinger*
Church World Service

January 2004, BAGHDAD, IRAQ – The Baghdad suburb of Hai Tarek is an unusually harsh place, and conditions here – muddy roads covered with garbage, no sewage system, the deleterious effects of sickness and trauma – underline the continued importance for humanitarian assistance in Iraq.

As Mazen Mohsen, an Iraqi physician, said recently: “Humanitarian work is still needed here.”

It’s also welcome, if the boisterous -- and predominately youthful -- crowds that greeted the daily delivery of water in this predominately Shi’ite area was any indication.

The delivery was made possible by the support of U.S. churches – specifically by Church World Service and other U.S. church agencies working together on the "All Our Children" (AOC) campaign**, an inter-agency effort to meet critical ongoing medical and health needs of Iraqi children and their families.

CWS has been a lead agency of the multi-agency "All Our Children" (AOC) campaign. To date, the overall campaign has raised $841,748, with $410,000 of that amount provided through CWS. The campaign has supported a total of 14 projects.

The AOC-funded water project in Hai Tarek – including daily delivery of water and distribution of jerry cans to some 55,000 people (some 5,000 families) – is improving lives in one of Baghdad’s poorest areas, an area where most residents don’t have jobs and where eight out of 10 residents are children.

Another AOC-funded project is also improving conditions in the impoverished area: $60,000 is being used to support Hai Tarek's sole health clinic, a facility that sees up to 250 patients a day.

Dozens of Hai Tarek residents – many of them women in their black chadors accompanied by small children –line up daily outside the clinic to see a doctor or receive medicine.

Both the AOC-funded water project and clinic are administered by Architects for People in Need (APN), a German-based non-governmental organization (NGO).

In the coming weeks, the residents of Hai Tarek will benefit from another AOC-supported effort: five IMA medicine boxes that will provide a three-month supply of basic medicines for 5,000 people. And later this year, children at a Hai Tarek school down the street from the clinic will receive some of the 13,160 CWS “Gift of the Heart” School Kits that are being shipped to Iraq. In addition, 16,450 “Gift of the Heart” Health Kits are also being sent to Iraq.

These efforts must continue, given the ongoing medical problems in Iraq that stem from long-term neglect and the past imposition of international sanctions, said Dr. Mohsen, who called overall medical conditions in Iraq "poor."

Post-war confusion has also contributed to problems, resulting in a lack of safe and usable medicines in Iraq. “That is the most serious problem we face now,” the physician said. If not corrected shortly, he warned that Iraq will face a grave health crisis in the near future.

Luckily, international efforts are easing the problem somewhat. Jean Renouf, a program coordinator for Premiere Urgence, a French agency which has received AOC funding, thanked AOC and its U.S. church supporters for their assistance -- assistance he said will rehabilitate a wing and help build a needed x-ray facility and help purchase a sonogram for a Pediatric Hospital in Kerbala.

“It’s a good project, and we thank you.”


* Mr. Herlinger visited Iraq in mid-January 2004. 

** The All Our Children campaign was founded in December 2002 to respond to the critical health needs of Iraqi children.  AOC partners are Church World Service, the National Council of Churches U.S.A., Jubilee Partners, Stop Hunger Now, Sojourners, the Mennonite Central Committee, Lutheran World Relief and Oxfam America.

Pictured: Children at Hai Tarek, Shi'ite area of Baghdad and site of an "AOC"-funded water project. Here, water is being distributed.  Photos by Chris Herlinger.

Related stories:
Theater for Traumatized Children Fills a Need in Post-War Iraq
Facts About the All Our Children Campaign

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