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For a Prosperous, Stable Iraq, Meet
Its Humanitarian Needs,
September 10, 2003, NEW YORK CITY - Will the Iraq of the future be prosperous, stable and tolerant -- or will it be suffering, violent and polarized? Keys to Iraqs success include how well its humanitarian needs are met, said Steve Weaver, coordinator for the multi-agency All Our Children campaign for Iraqi childrens health.
"Addressing the sensitive political and religious issues will be very difficult if humanitarian needs arent being met," he said, emphasizing that while the United States government has a unique role to play, private funding is essential.
Mr. Weaver speaks from experience: Iraqis, including those who bristle at anyone connected to the U.S. military intervention, express deep appreciation for independent people-to-people efforts such as All Our Children.
All Our Children is one of the few humanitarian programs operating in Iraq with only private funding, Mr. Weaver said. "Something will be lost if there arent such options," he said. "I know that our partner agencies and Iraqi beneficiaries value this aspect of All Our Children."
Consider these examples:
The National Council of Churches U.S.A., Church World Service and other partners founded All Our Children in December 2002 as an extension of their already long-standing response to Iraqs humanitarian crisis, three wars in 20 years, a repressive regime and more than a decade of trade sanctions.
The United Nations attributes the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children to the 1990s trade sanctions, which left the public health system short of medicine, medical equipment and other supplies; led to the breakdown of water and sanitation systems, and exhausted the resources of many Iraqi families.
Lack of Security is Iraqs "Number One Issue"
"The Iraqi people remain quite vulnerable on a number of fronts due to the lack of security and the lack of a functioning government," Mr. Weaver said. "Addressing this vulnerability is essential for a smooth transition to a stable future." Unfortunately, security has been deteriorating, especially in recent weeks with a series of car bomb attacks. International humanitarian organizations have received threats.
"Security is the number one issue when you are making plans," said Kevin King of Akron, Pa., Material Resources Manager for the Mennonite Central Committee, an All Our Children partner. He and colleagues were with Mr. Weaver in Baghdad August 18-25 visiting projects. The U.N.s offices were car bombed August 19. "Whatever we did, we had to evaluate (the security situation)," Mr. King said.
As a result of the car bombings and threats, humanitarian aid groups "are trying to go very low profile," Mr. Weaver said. For example, many are removing identifying signs from their vehicles, offices and projects. Some have suspended operations for a week or two and/or are waiting for security to improve before they recruit additional expatriate staff.
Of course, it is Iraqs citizens who are bearing the greatest burden of scarcity and insecurity. "One morning a taxi driver said to us, Wheres the liberation when my wife cant safely go to the market anymore, when the price of food has tripled, when electricity and water fail?" Mr. King said. "It sure is hard for a country to get to reconstruction when the foundation is still shaking."
Several All Our Children Projects Proceed; Others Are On Hold; One Expands
Several All Our Children projects are proceeding, two are on hold as a result of the increased insecurity, and one has been expanded to help - albeit modestly - fill a gap left when, after the August 19 car bomb attack on U.N. headquarters, another group delayed its funding for fresh food deliveries to institutions serving children.
From December 2002 through September 4, 2003, All Our Children has raised $606,748 toward a goal of $1 million, not counting in-kind donations of medical equipment and supplies, personal hygiene kits and canned meat valued at $183,360. To date:
Mr. Weaver, a Mennonite from Lancaster, Pa., also serves as an International Emergency Response Consultant for Church World Service, a global ecumenical humanitarian agency of the NCCs 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican member denominations; they, in turn, comprise 50 million adherents.
Contributions to All Our Children are welcome. By mail, write Church World Service, All Our Children Campaign, Account #6801, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. Phone pledges or credit card donations may be made by calling 1-800-297-1516. On-line contributions to www.churchworldservice.org, where you also may find more information. The All Our Children Web site is www.allourchildren.org
Two Iraqi children: Tabarek (3-year-old girl) and Murtadha (her 5-year-old brother) pose with their personal hygiene kit. Photo by Steve Weaver.
Cans of tuna: Maha Falih, the cook at the Alwiya Orphanage in Baghdad, and a young resident prepare to open cans of tuna purchased with All Our Children funds. All Our Children photo.
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