Church relief convoy delivers items to Iraq
5/8/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York
By Guy Hovey*BAGHDAD,
Iraq (UMNS) - The threat of being hijacked along the highway to Baghdad
is a concern shared by many people and one of the dangers the Middle
East Council of Churches convoy faced as it traveled from Jordan to
Iraq's capital in early May to deliver much needed relief items.
convoy of six trucks, driven by local Iraqis, was loaded with 250
winter tents, 19,200 cans of meat, 1,000 food packets consisting of oil,
tea, beans, sugar, rice and detergents, 6,380 blankets, 2.2 tons of BP5
high-protein biscuits and a 40-foot container of medicines.
members of the Action by Churches Together - Norwegian Church Aid,
International Christian Orthodox Charities, Church World Service -
donated the relief items. The medicines, immediately delivered to
hospitals in the area, were donated by Diakonie Austria, another ACT
The United Methodist Committee on Relief, a member of ACT, is working in Iraq through those and other ecumenical partners.
coordinator Edmond Adam said the items were brought in for a
pre-positioned emergency stockpile because of fear that current rations -
distributed to people by the old Iraqi regime under the oil for food
program - will run out by midyear.
At that point, people could
start experiencing severe food shortages. "The outlook is bleak if
people don't start earning salaries soon enabling them to buy food,"
Adam explained. The stockpile is at the Old Ancient Church of the East
The MECC stockpile is enough for 1,000 families in
Baghdad and Mosul, but Adam is realistic about how far the supplies will
stretch and noted that "millions of families could be without adequate
food in a couple of months."
His view was reinforced by ACT
Regional Coordinator Eszter NÃ©meth, who added that "as the food for oil
scheme was administered by the Iraqi Ministry of Trade, the
distribution system is no longer in place."
It would appear that
Iraq is heading for a classic "cash famine," as families are unable to
buy available food due to a shortage of work, cash and rising prices.
Already, a kilo of apples can cost a month's salary, she said.
problem is that government work places have been destroyed. "The
coalition says that people should return to work, but how can they when
their places of work have been destroyed or looted? There's nothing to
go back to," Adam said.
There are also worries about possible
outbreaks of disease, as already inadequate water supplies have been
potentially contaminated by untreated sewage from broken-down treatment
plants. Adam believes that water-born diseases could pose a threat this
summer, "although reports from the north of the country say that current
disease levels are not above the norm."
NÃ©meth advocates for
flexible and rapid funding from ACT donors. "What is needed is the
ability to be able to react immediately when a crisis is identified,"
United Methodists can help through donations to
UMCOR, earmarked for the Iraq Emergency Advance No. 623225-4. Checks may
be dropped in local church collection plates or mailed directly to
UMCOR at 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit-card
donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583.
# # #
works for the United Methodist Committee on Relief and is a
credentialed correspondent for United Methodist News Service in the
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