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BACKGROUND REPORT - March 24, 2003: International Aid for Iraq - 2003-03-28

This is a VOA Special English Background Report about international efforts to provide aid to the people of Iraq.

International aid groups have already begun to help. The International Committee of the Red Cross is in Iraq. Red Cross officials have visited hospitals in Baghdad to help treat wounded Iraqi citizens. The Red Cross has also provided medical supplies and other equipment, such as devices needed to make clean water for hospitals.

Red Cross teams are also working in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil. They are providing aid for several hundred of the thousands of Kurds near the Iranian border. A Red Cross spokesman said their teams already have helped about six-hundred people in the north.

The Red Cross spokesman also said the organization has already placed supplies on trucks in several countries. The trucks are ready to transport aid to where it is needed. The Red Cross spokesman said that no aid trucks have crossed the Iraqi border since the fighting began. The spokesman also said his organization would be negotiating with countries involved in the conflict in an effort to provide a continuing supply of needed aid.

Aid workers are also preparing refugee camps along the borders of Iraq. They say most people seeking aid have been foreign workers, and not Iraqi citizens. The aid workers said most of these people have gathered near the Jordanian town of Ruweishid, about forty kilometers west of the border with Iraq. The foreign workers were being been helped back to their home countries. Aid officials say they are ready for more refugees but their real concern is providing food for those still in Iraq.

The United Nations oil-for-food program supplied almost sixty percent of the food needed for the Iraqi people. The U-N suspended the program when its workers left Iraq March seventeenth. U-N officials say they plan to begin a huge humanitarian effort to aid the country, including huge amounts of food. Other countries are also making plans to send help. The United States said last week that it is immediately sending two-hundred-thousand tons of grain to Iraq.