2 April 2003: Latest on Iraq Relief Efforts
· Concern that food ration
and bomblet 'BLU 97' are identical in colour
Briefing by Geoff Keele, UNICEF Communication Officer, IRAQ
AMMAN, 2 April 2003 - UNICEF is deeply concerned by reports about the Humanitarian Daily Rations, or HDR, being handed out by coalition forces in southern Iraq. The rations are covered in bright yellow plastic wrap which is identical to the colour of a bomblet currently being air-dropped called BLU 97.
These are the same rations that were air dropped in Afghanistan, where the military eventually changed the wrapping to blue. This was done after the UN highlighted the dangers of presenting food in the same colour as ordinance. These rations are not being air dropped. Because of their identical colouring, however, children can confuse the ration and unexploded ordinance.
Confusing unexploded ordinance with food places children at huge risk of injury or death. UNICEF urges coalition forces to urgently change the colour of these rations.
Clean water vital as war and heat take their toll on children
In what UNICEF hopes is an improving pattern of access in Southern Iraq, a convoy of 5 trucks is on its way to the town of Safwan - with clean water and emergency health kits. Safwan is south of Basra, and UNICEF estimates that thousands of people in the town are in need of clean water.
The trucks are each carrying 35 thousand litres of water and will also deliver emergency health kits, each of which meets the needs of 1,000 people for 3 months.
As tankers enter towns, UNICEF is learning of new needs. Drivers who reached Zubair yesterday told UNICEF of about 20,000 people in nearby Um Kail, who have not yet been reached by any aid. The drivers will return to Um Kail tomorrow with water and emergency health kits.
Delivering to Zubair on April 2, a health worker said that the heat was already taking a toll on children and that there are more and more cases of children suffering from diarrhoea. This is a seasonal phenomenon in Iraq, but in a country where the average child suffers as many as 15 bouts of severe diarrhoea a year, the effects of current conditions and contaminated water is crippling.
Access to clean water is now vital, and very simply, life saving.
The Zubair local health worker also said that the hospital was running out of basic supplies, and gave the drivers a list of more than 50 medicines that it is in need of.
Clearly, with every new truck and every new delivery that makes it to those in need, UNICEF is taking heart. But UNICEF also realises that it is only meeting the needs of a fraction of those in need of assistance and looks forward to reaching more children, in more places, more quickly.
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