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BACKGROUND REPORT – April 10, 2003: Aid Efforts in Iraq - 2003-04-09


This is a VOA Special English Background Report.

Even as Iraqis celebrated in Baghdad, fighting continued in parts of the city and other areas of Iraq. The situation has slowed humanitarian aid efforts. On Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross restarted its work in Baghdad after a one-day suspension. But the Red Cross expressed concern about widespread attacks and stealing in the capital. The suspension followed the killing Tuesday of a Canadian Red Cross worker in gunfire between American and Iraqi forces.

In the hospitals in Baghdad, there are many wounded, but few supplies to care for them. Red Cross workers took supplies to one hospital in the city earlier this week. But a Red Cross spokeswoman said the Medical City Hospital had no water or power. Only a few operating rooms could be used.

Another agency, Medecins sans Frontieres -- Doctors without Borders -- has been assisting at al-Kindi General Hospital in Baghdad. The group has had some success in getting supplies into Iraq.

There were difficulties, though, for the World Health Organization. The United Nations agency said thirty-eight tons of its medical supplies were delayed in Jordan.

In southern Iraq, two Australian ships with tons of wheat were too large to enter the port at Umm Qasr. So engineers have been working to widen the waterway. The first British aid ship arrived last week. British troops have brought water to the city and nearby Safwan. Some thirsty people fought each other for the water.

In northern Iraq, the U-N World Food Program has said food supplies will be gone in about three weeks. Among other problems, the U-N says two-hundred-sixty-six-thousand people in the north have left their homes in search of safety.

A few days ago, the United States added more money for international efforts to buy food for Iraqis. Officials say the additional money will be enough to feed the more than twenty-million people of Iraq for almost a month. The United Nations has renewed its international appeal for more than two-thousand-million dollars for emergency humanitarian aid to Iraq.

In Washington, United States officials debated how to provide aid in Iraq when the fighting is over. Some at the State Department and the Agency for International Development want civilian aid workers involved. They say they fear that other governments and international aid organizations will not want to work with the military.

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