Nearly a third of Iraqis need immediate emergency help as conflict masks humanitarian crisis

Emergencies, Media Releases article written on the 30 Jul 2007

Eight million Iraqis – nearly one in three – are in urgent need of emergency aid, says a report released today by Oxfam and NCCI, a network of aid organisations working in Iraq.
The agencies’ report “Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq” says although the appalling security situation is the biggest problem facing most ordinary Iraqis, the government of Iraq and other influential governments should do more to meet basic needs for water, sanitation, food and shelter.
According to the report:
– Four million Iraqis – 15% – regularly cannot buy enough to eat.
– 70% are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50% in 2003.
– 28% of children are malnourished, compared to 19% before the 2003 invasion.
– 92% of Iraqi children suffer learning problems, mostly due to the climate of fear.
– More than two million people – mostly women and children – have been displaced inside Iraq.
– A further two million Iraqis have become refugees, mainly in Syria and Jordan.
Andrew Hewett, Executive Director Oxfam Australia, said: “Iraq is a conflict zone and the international community needs to respond accordingly. The focus of the Iraqi government, international donors and the UN is on trying to rebuild a country when there is still a war going on. Not meeting the people’s basic needs will only serve to further destabilise the country.”
“Effectively, a population the same size as Melbourne have fled their homes and desperately need food, water, medical help and protection from violence,” he added.
The Iraqi government should immediately extend its food parcel distribution programme, increase emergency cash payments and support local aid organisations. The government should also take a more decentralised approach and allow local authorities to deliver aid. Foreign governments, including the USA and UK, should support Iraqi ministries in implementing these policies.
Oxfam supports domestic and international aid agencies which are able to operate in Iraq. Although violence and insecurity restrict aid workers from helping Iraqis in need, an Oxfam survey in April 2007 found that over 80% of aid agencies working in Iraq could do more humanitarian work if they had more money. Oxfam Australia does not accept funds for their Iraq program from the Australian government in order to preserve the independence of the organizations within Iraq that it supports.
For more information or to arrange an interview with Andrew Hewett call Melany Markham +613 9289 9415 or +61 407 515 559.
Notes to Editors:
This report is jointly produced by Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI). The NCCI is a network of about 80 international NGOs and 200 NGOs, set in Baghdad immediately after the war in 2003 to help NGOs to assess and meet the needs of the Iraqi population. NCCI provides impartial information for NGOs operating in Iraq and facilitates coordination of activity for NGOs in Disaster Relief. Oxfam works with partner organisations in Iraq from a base in Amman, Jordan. The programmes supported include the provision of emergency assistance to internally displaced people (IDPs) in central and southern Iraq, the delivery of emergency medical supplies to hospitals and clinics in conflict areas, and conflict resolution between the Palestinian refugees and the Iraqi community. In addition, Oxfam works in partnership with another international NGO to build the operational capacity of six Iraqi NGOs in project management, governance, peace building and conflict resolution.
Oxfam has not had a staff presence in Iraq since 2003 because of security risks.