Oxfam America.org & BBC News – 2007-07-31 22:12:08
Eight Million Iraqis in Need of Urgent Aid
Adrienne Leicester Smith / Oxfam America.org
WASHINGTON DC (July 30, 2007) — The violence in Iraq is overshadowing a humanitarian crisis, with eight million Iraqis — nearly one in three — in need of emergency aid, says a report released today by international agency Oxfam and NCCI, a network of aid organizations working in Iraq.
The report “Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq” says that although the horrific security situation is the biggest problem facing most ordinary Iraqis, the government of Iraq and other influential governments can and must do more to meet people’s 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.
Jeremy Hobbs, Director of Oxfam International, said: “The terrible violence in Iraq has masked the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Malnutrition among children has dramatically increased and basic services, ruined by years of war and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people. Millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee the violence, either to another part of Iraq or abroad. Many of those are living in dire poverty.
“Despite the terrible violence the Iraqi government, the UN and the international community could do more to meet people’s needs right now,” Hobbs continued. “The Iraqi government must commit to helping Iraq’s poorest citizens, including the internally displaced, by extending food parcel distribution and cash payments to the vulnerable. Western donors must work through Iraqi and international aid organizations and develop more flexible systems to ensure these organizations operate effectively and efficiently.
“The fighting and weak Iraqi institutions mean there are severe limits on what humanitarian work can be carried out. Nevertheless more can and should be done to help the Iraqi people.”
While there is an urgent need for greater humanitarian assistance, Oxfam and NCCI believe that ending the conflict must be the top priority for everyone involved in Iraq. The Iraqi government and US-led coalition must also ensure their troops respect their moral and legal obligations not to harm civilians and their property.
The Iraqi government should immediately extend its food parcel distribution program, increase emergency cash payments and support local aid organizations. The government should also take a more decentralized approach and allow local authorities to deliver aid. Foreign governments, especially the US and UK, should support Iraqi ministries in implementing these policies.
Oxfam had staff working inside Iraq but withdrew them due to chronic security problems. It now 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.
Many humanitarian organizations will not accept money from governments that have troops in Iraq, as this could jeopardize their own security and independence. Therefore the report urges international donor governments that have not sent troops to Iraq to provide increased emergency funding for humanitarian action.
© 2007 Oxfam America. Oxfam America is a member of Oxfam International
• For more information, contact:
Adrienne Leicester Smith, (617) 728—2406. firstname.lastname@example.org
Rising to the humanitarian challenge in Iraq
Armed violence is the greatest threat facing Iraqis, but the population is also experiencing another kind of crisis of an alarming scale and severity. Eight million people are in urgent need of emergency aid; that figure includes over two million who are displaced within the country, and more than two million refugees.
Many more are living in poverty, without basic services, and increasingly threatened by disease and malnutrition.
Despite the constraints imposed by violence, the government of Iraq, the United Nations, and international donors can do more to deliver humanitarian assistance to reduce unnecessary suffering. If people’s basic needs are left unattended, this will only serve to further destabilise the country.
While horrific violence dominates the lives of millions of ordinary people inside Iraq, another kind of crisis, also due to the impact of war, has been slowly unfolding. Up to eight million people are now in need of emergency assistance. This figure includes:
* four million people who are ‘food—insecure and in dire need of different types of humanitarian assistance’
* more than two million displaced people inside Iraq
* over two million Iraqis in neighbouring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan, making this the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world.
This paper describes the humanitarian situation facing ordinary Iraqis and argues that, while violence and a failure to protect fundamental human rights pose the greatest problems, humanitarian needs such as food, shelter, water and sanitation must be given more attention.
Although responding to those needs is extremely challenging, given the lack of security and of competent national institutions, Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI) believe that more could be done.
The government of Iraq could extend the distribution of food parcels, widen the coverage of emergency cash payments, decentralise decision-making and support civil society groups providing assistance.
The international donors and UN agencies could intensify their efforts to coordinate, fund and deliver emergency aid. These measures will not transform the plight of Iraqis but they can help alleviate their suffering. The paper focuses on needs inside the country, which are less visible, and does not refer in detail to the refugees in neighbouring countries.
Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment. Of the four million Iraqis who are dependent on food assistance, only 60 percent currently have access to rations through the government-run Public Distribution System (PDS), down from 96 per cent in 2004.
Forty-three per cent of Iraqis suffer from ‘absolute poverty’. According to some estimates, over half the population are now without work. Children are hit the hardest by the decline in living standards. Child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 per cent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 percent now.
The situation is particularly hard for families driven from their homes by violence. The two million internally displaced people (IDPs) have no incomes to rely on and are running out of coping mechanisms. In 2006, 32 per cent of IDPs had no access to PDS food rations, while 51 percent reported receiving food rations only sometimes.
The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 per cent to 70 percent since 2003, while 80 per cent lack effective sanitation. The ‘brain drain’ that Iraq is experiencing is further stretching already inadequate public services, as thousands of medical staff, teachers, water engineers, and other professionals are forced to leave the country. At the end of 2006, perhaps 40 per cent had left already.
The people of Iraq have a right, enshrined in international law, to material assistance that meets their humanitarian needs, and to protection, but this right is being neglected. The government of Iraq, international donors, and the United Nations (UN) system have been focused on reconstruction, development, and building political institutions, and have overlooked the harsh daily struggle for survival now faced by many.
All these actors have a moral, political, and in the case of the government, legal obligation to protect ordinary Iraqis caught up in the conflict. They also have a responsibility to find ways to secure the right conditions for the delivery of assistance, both where conflict is intense and in less insecure parts of the country to which many people have fled.
The primary duty—bearer for the provision of basic services remains the national government, which must work to overcome the extensive obstacles that hamper its operations at central and local level. Oxfam and the NCCI believe that political will must be found to improve the emergency support system for the poorest citizens, including the internally displaced.
The government should start with the decentralisation of the delivery of assistance. This would include giving power to local authorities to quality-check and distribute emergency supplies within their own governorates, together with a more extensive system of warehouse storage for supplies throughout Iraq. Establishing a proper legal framework for civil-society organisations would greatly assist non-government relief efforts by giving them the legal authority to operate in Iraq.
The expansion of the PDS for foodstuffs, including the establishment of a temporary PDS identity—card system for IDPs, is also priority. As is the extension of the programme of emergency cash allowances to households headed by widows, which should be increased from $100 per month so that it is closer to the average monthly wage of $200, and expanded to include other vulnerable groups.
A $200 monthly payment to 1 million households, would cost $2.4bn per year, which is within the country’s financial capacity. Foreign governments with capacity and influence in Iraq, including the USA and the UK, must provide advice and technical assistance to Iraqi government ministries to implement these policies and supply basic services,
The main challenges both to the livelihoods of Iraqis and to the delivery of humanitarian assistance are the ongoing violence and insecurity. Political solutions to the conflict must be found as soon as possible, but in the meantime all armed groups, including the Iraqi security forces, the Multi—National Force in Iraq (MNF—I), local militia, and insurgents, should not harm civilian life, property, or infrastructure, and should respect the population’s right to assistance, in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law.
Whilst indiscriminate, and often targeted, violence has greatly reduced the capacity of Iraqi civil—society organisations and NGOs, international NGOs (INGOs), the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement, and UN agencies to access the needy civilian population, this has not prevented many of these organisations from working with Iraqi communities to find creative ways to adapt to the constraints and continue to maintain a presence in Iraq.
There are 80 independent INGOs still engaged with Iraq, including NCCI members, and 45 of these have existing or potential emergency response programmes. Some have national staff running offices inside the country, with management based in a different country, commonly Jordan. Others fund and advise autonomous local Iraqi NGOs. These methods of working in highly insecure environments are often known as ‘remote programming’. By adopting such approaches, NGOs are the main implementers of UN and other humanitarian programmes inside Iraq.
Islamic and regional organisations are active in humanitarian response. Islamic Relief and Muslim Aid provide financial and technical support, focusing on humanitarian aid and orphan—care programmes, while the Qatari Red Crescent funds Iraqi NGOs and the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS). The Khomeni Foundation has been providing basic hygiene kits, blankets, and food to IDPs in the south of the country. Islamic political parties and religious organisations, including mosques, also respond to the survival needs of their constituencies.
International donors have been slow to recognise the scale of humanitarian needs. Development aid from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) donors increased by 922 per cent between 2003 and 2005 to $20,948 million, whereas funding for humanitarian assistance fell by 47 percent during the same period to $453 million.
Results from a recent Oxfam survey of donors show that 2006 funding for humanitarian assistance fell alarmingly to $95m despite the evident increase in need. The total is not complete as only 19 of the 22 Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donors were willing to provide data for the survey. However, eight of the top ten donors for humanitarian assistance to Iraq in 2005, including the US and the UK, did respond.
Many humanitarian organisations will not accept money from governments that have troops in Iraq, as this could jeopardise their own security and independence. So it is particularly important that donors from countries which do not have troops there, such as Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland, agree to increase their budgets for humanitarian action in Iraq.
Donors and the UN have also not commonly appreciated the potential that exists to fund work inside Iraq, especially if there were greater willingness to support operations that do not involve all the conventional forms of delivery, monitoring and evaluation, and which may be costlier, yet which offer reasonable guarantees that money is well spent.
According to a survey of NGOs/INGOs conducted by Oxfam in April 2007, over 80 percent could expand humanitarian work if they had increased access to funds. Both the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the IRCS have recently launched appeals for their substantial programmes in Iraq, which are yet to be fully funded.
The UN, especially the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), has a vital role to play in the provision of humanitarian assistance, through coordinating needs-assessment and delivery, advising the government, mobilising resources, and advocating for enhanced civilian protection.
To date, the UN’s performance has been limited, not least by the tight security it has imposed on its staff following the loss of 22 employees in the 2003 bombing of the Canal Hotel. Nevertheless, there are welcome signs that the UN may be becoming more active.
The publication in April 2007 of a ‘strategic framework’ for a coordinated humanitarian response in Iraq is a step in the right direction, as is the decision of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in July 2007 to ask donors to double its budget for work with Iraqi refugees and the internally displaced to $123 million.
Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
Bringing an end to war and civil strife in Iraq must be the overriding priority for the national government and the international community. However, the government, the countries of the MNF—I, the UN agencies, and international donors can do more to meet the other survival needs of the Iraqi population, despite the challenging environment.
The government of Iraq should take urgent action to address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. Measures should include:
• Local authorities should assume greater responsibility for providing assistance, shelter, and essential services to displaced people, as well as to vulnerable local populations, and should be given the power and resources by central government to do so.
• The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs should increase the $100 per month payment to households headed by widows so that it is closer to the average monthly wage of $200, and expand the range of recipients to include other vulnerable groups, such as the displaced population.
• The Ministry of Trade should improve the Public Distribution System (PDS). This should include the establishment of a temporary PDS identity card system so that displaced people can receive food rations.
• The government should create a cross—ministerial team to co—ordinate its humanitarian response and should release funds at its disposal for delivery of this response.
• Explicit orders should be given to the Iraqi security forces that they, like all armed groups, should not harm civilian life, property, or infrastructure, and should respect the population’s right to assistance.
• The government of Iraq should support national NGOs through a legal framework, including registration procedures that recognise their rights and independence and secure their legal authority to operate in Iraq.
International governments with capacity and influence in Iraq should recognise their responsibilities towards the people of Iraq by:
• Supporting Iraqi ministries through advice and technical assistance in order to ensure their capacity to provide basic services, notably improved food distribution, shelter, and the extension of welfare payments.
The governments of the Multi—National Force in Iraq (MNF—I) should recognise their particular responsibilities towards the people of Iraq by:
• Ensuring that the armed forces respect their moral and legal obligation not to harm civilians or their property, or essential infrastructure.
Donors need to increase support to national and international NGOs, the ICRC, the IRCS, and UN agencies delivering the humanitarian response:
• Donors should provide increased emergency funding that is readily accessible and flexible. In particular, donors must build on discussions under way with NGOs to better understand ‘remote programming’ and mechanisms for monitoring and verification.
• Since many humanitarian organisations will not accept money from governments engaged in the conflict, it is important that donors from other countries, such as Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland, increase their funding for humanitarian action.
The UN, especially UNAMI and OCHA, needs to continue to strengthen its humanitarian role inside Iraq by:
• Working towards the achievement of a co—ordinated response with the government of Iraq and NGOs, and between UN agencies.
• Developing a more nuanced approach to the movement of UN staff that differentiates between constraints in different areas and which is more independent of the MNF—I, thereby allowing better needs assessment, co—ordination, and service delivery.
• Building on the emergency field co—ordination structure established by the NCCI to enable rapid response to identified needs.
• Administering a new pooled fund for rapid response that should be able to disburse monies to NGOs.
Third of Iraqis ‘Need Urgent Aid’
Iraqis try to get the attention of a US soldier giving out boxes of food and blankets in Baghdad. Oxfam say basic services cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people
Nearly a third of the population of Iraq is in need of immediate emergency aid, according to a new report from Oxfam and a coalition of Iraqi NGOs.
The report said the government was failing to provide basics such as food and shelter for eight million people. It warned of a humanitarian crisis that had escalated since the 2003 invasion.
Meanwhile, the US agency overseeing reconstruction in Iraq said economic mismanagement and corruption were equivalent to “a second insurgency.”
Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction Stuart Bowen was appointed by the US Congress to audit how billions of dollars of US money is being and has been spent.
In a BBC interview, he described corruption as “an enemy of democracy” and said that it could not be allowed to continue at current levels.
“We have performed 95 audits that have found instances of programmatic weakness and waste, and we’ve got 57 ongoing cases right now, criminal cases, looking at fraud.”
Last year, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s government only spent 22% of its budget on vital rebuilding projects, while spending 99% of the allocation for salaries, he said.
The inspector general also described a process of transferring control of projects to the Iraqi government as troubling, and found cancellations, delays and costs that outstripped budgets.
He said “a pathway towards potential prosperity” could be found only if oil production was brought up to optimal levels, and security and corruption effectively managed.
‘Ruined by War’
The Iraqi parliament is about to take the whole of August off as a holiday despite the problems and the Oxfam report highlighting the plight of many Iraqis.
The BBC’s Nicholas Witchell in Baghdad says the report by the UK-based charity and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI) makes alarming reading.
Millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee the violence, either to another part of Iraq or abroad — many of those are living in dire poverty
Jeremy Hobbs is Director of Oxfam International
Alarming Humanitarian Crisis
The survey recognises that armed conflict is the greatest problem facing Iraqis, but finds a population “increasingly threatened by disease and malnutrition”.
It suggests that 70% of Iraq’s 26.5m population are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50% prior to the invasion. Only 20% have access to effective sanitation.
Nearly 30% of children are malnourished, a sharp increase on the situation four years ago. Some 15% of Iraqis regularly cannot afford to eat.
The report also said 92% of Iraq’s children suffered from learning problems.
It found that more than two million people have been displaced inside the country, while a further two million have fled to neighbouring countries. Many are living in dire poverty.
“Basic services, ruined by years of war and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people,” the director of Oxfam International, Jeremy Hobbs, said.
Mr Hobbs said that despite the violence, the Iraqi government and the international community could do more to meet people’s needs.
On Thursday, an international conference in Jordan pledged to help the refugees with their difficulties. Oxfam has not operated in Iraq since 2003 for security reasons.
Violence ‘Masking a Humanitarian Crisis’
Louise Gray / The Scotsman.com
(July 30, 2007) — One in three Iraqis need immediate emergency aid but conflict in the country “masks the humanitarian crisis”, according to a new report.
Although the everyday threat of armed violence is the biggest problem facing most ordinary Iraqis, eight million — almost a third — are in urgent need of water, sanitation, food and shelter, the report by Oxfam and the aid agency network NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI) said.
According to the report, four million citizens — 15 percent — regularly cannot afford to eat; 70 per cent are without adequate water supplies; 28 per cent of children are malnourished; 92 per cent of children suffer learning problems and more than two million people — mostly women and children — have been displaced inside Iraq. A further two million Iraqi refugees have fled the country, mainly to Syria and Jordan.
Judith Robertson, the head of Oxfam in Scotland, said: “The terrible violence in Iraq has masked the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Malnutrition among children has dramatically increased and basic services, ruined by years of war and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people.
“Millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee the terrible violence. Many of those are living in dire poverty. Despite the violence, the Iraqi government, the UN and the international community could do more to meet people’s needs.”
Oxfam has not operated in Iraq since 2003.
• Wally, By The Rivers Of Babylon (USA) / 2:44am 30 Jul 2007
Finally, an article that speaks about important things. Good for Scotsman. The criticism in 1’st sentence applies to the entire media.
The Department of Homeland Security in the US is a very powerful organization. Within it are all the federal law enforcement agencies (which is 17 or 18) and many other federal agencies. All consolidated into one DHS under Bush. and the head of DHS is Michael Chertoff. Chertoff said about 2—3 weeks ago that events would occur that would rejuvenate the American public’s support for the war. chilling statement.
But we should all at least know the truth, that since the 2003 invasion by US/UK many bad things have come to Iraq. They are not better off and neither are we.
• Jason, Japan / 3:16am 30 Jul 2007
So comforting to know how much better conditions are in post Saddam Iraq. A war not sanctioned by the UN is an illegal war, therefore a war crime and a crime against humanity. Obvious now that justifications used at the time were no more than threadbare excuses. A war crime is a war crime even (especially) if your country is committing it.
Live internationally, think internationally.
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