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Press release

UNICEF seeks $166 million to help Iraq's children

Part of larger UN Humanitarian Appeal; relief already underway

GENEVA / NEW YORK, 28 March 2003 - With more than 200 staff still on the ground throughout Iraq working to meet emergency needs, UNICEF today appealed for $166 million to support urgent humanitarian aid for children and women most at risk from the war.

The UNICEF appeal is part of a broader humanitarian appeal being launched by the United Nations today. The total UN appeal is for $2.1 billion to provide life-saving humanitarian support over the next six months.

UNICEF is the lead UN agency for non-food assistance to Iraq. Its appeal will address immediate and emerging needs, and will include:

  • Emergency immunization to prevent fatal childhood diseases
  • Special feeding for malnourished children and pregnant women
  • Supply of clean, safe water and provision of basic sanitation
  • Medicines and medical supplies for health centres
  • Care for traumatized children
  • Protection for orphans and other children living in institutions

And the return of children to school as soon as possible.
"There is a clear and growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "Over the next weeks the needs will grow. We make this appeal because we need to act now. We can't wait until it is too late."

The appeal for support comes as UNICEF attempts to set up a tanker-truck operation to bring clean water to towns in southern Iraq, where more than a million people are thought to be without safe water.

Bellamy pointed out that UNICEF has continued to conduct emergency relief operations within Iraq, carried out by its experienced and committed national staff. In the last few days UNICEF has immunized children against measles in northern Iraq, visited hospitals there, and delivered food and medicines to orphanages and other child institutions in and around Baghdad.

UNICEF said that 12 years of sanctions and the third war in 20 years have left Iraqi children and women with little capacity to withstand the effects of a massive military conflict. "Without rapid humanitarian assistance in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and primary education, child and maternal deaths are likely to increase sharply," Bellamy said.

Half of Iraq's population are children of 17 years or younger.

UNICEF noted that even before the war, Iraq had one of the world's worst child mortality rates with one in eight children dying before the age of five. It noted that 1 million children under age five are chronically malnourished, and an additional 1.3 million children are at risk of malnutrition.

In order to deliver aid as quickly and efficiently as possible, UNICEF said it is coordinating relief work for children with numerous other agencies, including WHO, ICRC, Red Crescent, CARE, Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and several other groups, including many Iraqi volunteer agencies.

"Our relief effort in Iraq could well become the largest and most complex UNICEF has ever undertaken," Bellamy said.

To meet the challenge, UNICEF has been making extensive preparations for a rapid emergency response. More than $14 million in emergency supplies and equipment have already been pre-positioned, and supply hubs along the border with neighbouring countries have been established. Staff, communications and warehouses are now in place in newly-opened emergency offices in Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran and Kuwait.

As a non-profit humanitarian agency funded entirely by voluntary contributions, UNICEF said that it has a responsibility to provide as much support to Iraqi children and women as possible.

"This appeal is not about the reconstruction of Iraq," Bellamy said. "It is about saving lives now and over the next several weeks. "Iraq has been in a crisis for more than 15 years. People have nothing to fall back on. A major war is engulfing them. These are the facts. We have to act now to prevent needless deaths and suffering, and to provide some hope for Iraqi children. That's what this appeal is about."

# # #

UNICEF is the world's leading child rights organization. Operating in 158 countries, UNICEF strives for health, education, equality, and protection for every child. It is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, foundations, businesses, and governments. UNICEF has provided support to Iraqi children since 1952 and has had a permanent operation in Baghdad since 1983.

Over 200 UNICEF staff are still on the job in Iraq.

For further information please contact us:

Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF Iraq: gkeele@unicef.org
(962-6) 551-5921 ext. 126,
Cell +962-79) 692-6191

Anis Salem, UNICEF Amman: asalem@unicef.org
(+962-6) 553-9977 ext. 407
(Cell + 962 79 557 9991

Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Geneva: wbelmonte@unicef.org,
(+41-79) 909-5509

Alfred Ironside, UNICEF New York, aironside@unicef.org
(+1-212) 326-7261

For interviews in the region, write or call directly to the UNICEF NewsDesk in Amman:

(962-79) 50422058




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