1998 NCC News Archives

National Council of Churches logo represents the church 
as ecumenical ship, serving the world

CWS to Provide Food, Medicine, Blankets to Suffering Iraqis
Supports International Appeal for Internally Displaced and Other Vulnerable Iraqi People

How to Help

Funds for humanitarian response for Iraq Emergency Relief may be sent to Church World Service, Attn.: Iraq Emergency Relief #976801, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.  Phone pledges or credit card donations: 1-800-762-0968.

Who We Are

Church World Service works in more than 70 countries, including the U.S., in disaster relief, human development and refugee assistance. It is a ministry of the National Council of Churches, the nation's preeminent ecumenical organization which includes 34 Protestant and Orthodox member communions with a combined membership of nearly 52 million.

    NEW YORK, Feb. 6, 1998 ---- As increasing alarm about a possible United States military strike combines with heightened concern about frayed social and economic conditions in Iraq, Church World Service (CWS) will provide blankets and layettes and will seek funds for desperately needed medicine in support of a $2 million global appeal to aid the internally displaced and other vulnerable people in Iraq.

    Action by Churches Together (ACT) International has launched a $2 million appeal to reach more than 120,000 Iraqi beneficiaries over the next 10 months. ACT is a worldwide network of churches affiliated with the World Council of Churches and Lutheran World Federation that cooperate to provide humanitarian aid and relief programs. Church World Service, an ACT member, will support the ACT appeal in two ways:

  • Seeking $150,000 from its 34 Protestant and Orthodox member communions. $100,000 will go for the purchase of medicines, medical supplies and other essential medical treatment items for use in hospitals and clinics throughout Iraq and $50,000 will contribute to operational costs, including transportation and the warehousing of goods in Jordan.
  • Sending $325,000 worth of in-kind donations, including 50,000 blankets (valued at $250,000) and layettes to 10,000 newborn children (valued at $75,000).

    The majority of relief items will be distributed in the southern parts of Iraq, including Basrah, Nasariyah, Amara and other parts of the Southern and Central Governorates, where the suffering is most acute. Distribution and monitoring will be carried out by the Middle East Council of Churches' Ecumenical Relief Service, a partner of ACT and CWS, in close cooperation with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society.

Humanitarian Situation in Iraq is "Alarming"

    "The humanitarian situation in Iraq is alarming and deteriorating despite the 'Food for Oil' agreement with the United Nations," said Stein Vilumstad, Acting Director of International Programs for Norwegian Church Aid, who recently visited Iraq with a World Council of Churches (WCC) delegation.

    The UN-imposed economic sanctions against Iraq have created massive economic hardships, have deprived large segments of the population of food and have left the Iraqi medical system "in deplorable condition," according to David Weaver, NCC Middle East Director. Mr. Weaver visited Iraq over Christmas 1996 where he "literally saw children suffering and dying from treatable diseases." Mr. Weaver said the ACT program would represent a desperately needed expansion of the Ecumenical Relief Service of the Middle East Council of Churches.

    "Without wanting to relieve Saddam Hussein of his obvious responsibility for the welfare of the Iraqi people, it is our conviction that the international sanctions are contributing to denying the Iraqi people basic human and social rights such as the right to food and clean water," Mr. Vilumstad said. Water supplies are often contaminated due to the lack of funding and repair materials.

    The suffering in Iraq is well documented by United Nations agencies. The World Food Program has determined that 900,000 people are "especially vulnerable persons," many of whom belong to female headed households with children under age five. UNICEF has found general malnutrition present in 14.6 percent of infants, chronic malnutrition in 12.2 percent of infants, and acute malnutrition in 7.55 percent of infants in the 15 Southern and Central governorates of the country.

    CWS began providing emergency relief in Iraq in 1991 to victims of the Gulf War in several different countries in the region, including Iraq and Iran. CWS is now focusing its efforts upon aiding those still displaced and vulnerable as a result of the Gulf War, particularly those whose needs have been exacerbated by the imposed sanctions.

    On November 26, 1997, the President and General Secretary of the NCC wrote a letter to the United Nations, U.S. and Iraqi governments calling on all parties to exercise "restraint" and to continue seeking peace. A cover letter to President Clinton pointed out that according to reputable studies, at least 500,000 persons have died in Iraq as a direct result of the UN-imposed economic sanctions, half of them children under five.


Writer: Wendy S. McDowell

NCC Home Page
NCC News Service Index