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Iraqi women, children at risk from lack of food aid: UMCOR

3/20/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

NEW YORK (UMNS) - The termination of food aid to Iraq because of the war has put Iraqi women and children at risk, according to the chief executive of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

In a letter posted March 20 on the agency's Web site, the Rev. Paul Dirdak noted that U.N. staff are no longer in the country to administer the Oil for Food Program for Iraq, upon which 60 percent of the population depended for food.

"Before the conflict began our United Methodist leadership spoke out about the added human and relationship consequences of war," Dirdak wrote. "The bishops of the church hoped for and asked for an opportunity to meet directly with the President to discuss the issues. There was no response from the White House."

Dirdak noted that UMCOR has been involved with partners who have responded to the needs of the Iraqi people, especially since the 1991 Gulf War.

"I write now to let you know that since the war is bringing even more hardship on our brothers and sisters, the Iraqi people, we are also redoubling our resolve and our commitment to meet some of their needs," he continued, adding that ecumenical commitments were being renewed.

UMCOR will provide one of three staff people to be placed in Amman, Jordan, for communication and planning purposes by denominations of the World Council of Churches and Lutheran World Federation.

"While work among the ordinary Iraqi people has never been easy, the problems of increased security and safety measures make it even more difficult," Dirdak said. "We are glad to be carrying out this mission with ecumenical partners so that our combined experience in this situation can serve all of us, especially those most in need."

He also called for continued prayers and support for members of the U.S. Armed Forces "who are now commanded to carry the battle in the name of our country."

Rebuilding the lives of the Iraqi people "will be a long and arduous process," according to Dirdak. UMCOR will collect funds for this long-term process through its Iraq Emergency Advance No. 623225-4. Checks can be dropped in church collection plates or mailed directly to UMCOR at 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit-card donations also can be made online at or by calling (800) 554-8583.

More information can be found at

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