Middle East Council of Churches

Unofficial news from the Middle Eastern Christian Ecumenical organization.

Maintained by Tom Scudder

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Saturday, March 29, 2003
Permalinked funding appeals for Iraq, from ACT and 2 lists of appeals from InterAction.org (US-based) and AlertNet
posted by Tom at 3:53 PM

Christian Aid: Why Soldiers Shouldn't Hand Out Aid:
Television images in recent days have shown British soldiers attempting to hand out food and water to Iraqis. We have seen desperate crowds fighting to get their hands on supplies with soldiers struggling to keep order. Why are these aid handouts going so wrong? Nick Guttmann Christian Aid's Head of Emergencies reports.

Soldiers are trained to fight wars and aid workers are trained to deliver aid. Distributing humanitarian supplies is not as simple as it sounds and, if done incorrectly, can lead to danger both for recipients and for those handing out the food packs. It can also do long-term harm.

Indeed, we have seen soldiers on television in a state of panic trying to hand out relief supplies under great pressure from crowds of people desperate to get much-needed help.

First of all, what are the essentials for good distribution of food? It must be based on a thorough assessment of needs - who is most vulnerable and who needs what?

This should be done using local information, for example by working through community leaders and by using agreed criteria. For example, should supplies go to female-headed households, the elderly, the sick?

Secondly, lists of beneficiaries with names and numbers of dependants must be produced, through community structures. Aid agencies must decide between themselves who will deal with what. They must co-ordinate their activities, make sure that there is no overlap and make sure they cover all the needs.

And finally, communication is essential. The agencies and recipients must all know who is giving what to whom, when and where.

Furthermore, the process must be explained to the recipients. It must be made clear how the distribution take place, who is entitled to receive what and most importantly why. Security at the distribution point is essential. Without it there is the risk of diversion of the aid and potential for violence usually resulting in the most vulnerable not getting their fair share.

Most of these elements were missing in recent food handouts made by British troops in Iraq.

posted by Tom at 3:26 PM

ICRC September 28 update:
Yesterday the ICRC received reports from different sources of severe water shortages in several governorates (Nalnawa, Kerbela, Dia Qar, Wasit) due either to failures of the national electricity grid, a reduction in the water supply to water treatment plants, or hostilities on the ground. As a result several urban centres such as Naseriyah and possibly Najaf and Kerbela have most likely now been without drinking water for several days.

They also include some specifics on what kind of aid people need on a daily basis.
posted by Tom at 3:22 PM

Friday, March 28, 2003
Official MECC site: Two reports. First, A general situation update by Sam Rizk:
  • Edward Ishu, MECC coordinator in Baghdad, has decided to take his family to Mosul and to return on Sunday after a missile landed 150m. from his home.
  • Ishu gives details on churches and mosques being used to store humanitarian supplies, on what supplies are being disbursed, and on who is assisting him.
  • He also reports that Christian-Muslim cooperation is good in Baghdad, although there is a lot of pressure.
  • Further updates on Syria and Lebanon, where some early arrivals may not be prepared for a long stay.

Second, a report from Jordan by Chris Doyle
THE GENERAL CONDITION OF THE ROAD BETWEEN BAGHDAD AND THE JORDANIAN BORDER: Passenger movement on the road linking Amman to Baghdad is down to a minimum. Jordanian drivers returning from Baghdad that have been able to cross into Jordan have stated, "American troops can be seen in the desert between the joint borders of Jordan and Iraq and Ramadi, an Iraqi city 100 kilometers west of Baghdad." The word is that the US troops, who have occupied two air bases on the road (as reported by the media and drivers) are shooting at cars and buses that are using this road. Several incidents have been reported.

PURPOSE OF VISIT TO THE CAMPS: The visit made was intended to check on the preparedness in the two camps that are being erected on the Jordanian-Iraqi borders. Camp (A) is being prepared to receive Iraqi refugees, while Camp (B) is being prepared to receive Third Country Nationals (TCN).

SITUATION AT CAMPS: Nearly 300 tents are already erected at Camp (A), which is being run by the UNHCR jointly with the Hashemite Charitable Organization (HCO). None of them are occupied due to the lack of Iraqi refugees. So far, no Iraqis are trying to leave Iraq, to the contrary, nearly one third of Iraqis living in Jordan have decided to return to Iraq (100,000 to 150,000). If the situation continues as is, there might be no refugees coming into Jordan, at least for the time being.

posted by Tom at 9:57 PM

Action by Churches Together: Situation Report (Iraq) #2:

It is becoming increasingly difficult to make contact with people in Baghdad from Amman. The border is still permanently open and some shipping companies continue to transport relief items to Baghdad - it remains a hazardous exercise.

Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) is continuing to stockpile food and non-food items in its distribution centers at churches and mosques in Baghdad. Rice, tea, sugar, tomato paste, oil, milk powder, spaghetti, palm honey, jam, and sardines, first aid kits and blankets have been bought at local markets. 147 water tanks are also available. However, MECC staff report that it is becoming very difficult to find cotton wool, as the stocks have been bought up by the local hospitals. Some families have now started sleeping in the churches in Baghdad as a safety precaution.

Local Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) staff continues running and maintaining the purification units in Baghdad Hospital. They have confirmed that the units are running and providing potable water to approximately 150,000 people. The capacity per water purification unit (WPU) runs at 20,000 litres per hour - there are two such WPU in use. Staff also report that there is an urgent need for medicine, medical equipment and food, as well as additional WPUs.

The co-operation between NCA and UNICEF on water programs is continuing and its scale is increasing. NCA will second 6 water engineers to UNICEF - three of whom will be based in Kuwait and three in Amman. They are expected to be in place by early April. Approximately 7,800 kg of water equipment pre-positioned in Amman by NCA is to be airlifted to Kuwait in the next few days. Included in this shipment is one WPU. According to UNICEF the equipment will be used either in Umm Qasr or Basra. Seconded NCA engineers will assist in this emergency operation and give advice on how to operate the equipment.

The rest mostly duplicates other stuff already quoted.
posted by Tom at 6:08 PM

ICRC: Water situation in Basra:
Here is some additional information on the Wafa' Al-Qaed water pumping station north of the city that was mentioned in the ICRC's press release no. 03/21 of 26 March: This station not only serves Basra but also surrounding towns. Despite the progress made yesterday, the situation remains precarious since all water treatment plants and pumping stations now rely on back-up generators. These generators only provide a fraction of the normal power available to the water facilities, and their operation and maintenance require continuous supervision, not to mention the difficulties of obtaining fuel and spare parts.

ICRC staff expressed concern about the water situation in urban centres south of Basra such as Al-Zubayr and Safwan, which have also been disconnected from the water network since last Friday. The ICRC is in contact with the local water authorities to discuss how best to improve the situation in order to avoid a major health emergency.

There have been reports and statements that the water in Basra is unfit for consumption. To the best of the ICRC's knowledge, the water is salty but treated; apart from its taste, the bacteriological quality of this water is comparable to that existing before the supply was disrupted, and is also comparable to the quality of water currently produced in many other parts of the country.

posted by Tom at 3:36 PM

National Catholic Reporter: Mission to White House sends message to Islam


Though Pope John Paul II’s last-ditch appeal to President George Bush to avoid war in Iraq packs undeniable drama, there’s a sense in which Cardinal Pio Laghi’s mission has precious little to do with changing minds in the White House.

The 80-year-old former papal ambassador to the United States is also speaking, indirectly but unmistakably, to Cairo and Tehran, Khartoum and Peshawar, and Jakarta and Abuja. Laghi’s very presence in Washington speaks a message to the Islamic street: This is not our war.

Making that point is seen by Vatican diplomats as especially urgent in light of fears over the fate of Christian minorities in Islamic nations. In several such places, Christians are facing increasing strain.

posted by Tom at 12:44 AM

BBC: Arab Christians Squeezed by Conflict
March 24 - By Martin Asser

BBC News Online, Madaba, Jordan

Beleaguered Arab Christians are finding their position among majority Muslim populations more precarious than usual as the US and UK pursue military action in Iraq.

The town of Madaba is home to some of Jordan's most prominent Christian families - who are fiercely loyal to the state and royal family but believe their relations with Muslim neighbours are deteriorating.

"Mosque preachers are talking about a "crusade" being waged by American and British forces against Muslim Iraq," says Toufiq Mitri al-Salaitha...

Mr Salaitha describes the use of the word crusade as "very worrying" for Christians, because it places them on the side of the Americans, when in fact only a tiny minority of his co-religionists support American policy.

"We want peace," says another Madaba resident who identified himself only as Fouad. "We know (Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein is a bad dictator and we want to see him go, but not like this."

posted by Tom at 12:38 AM

Christianity Today: Relief Agencies Prepare to Help Iraqi Refugees
By Kristian Kahrs | posted 03/26/2003

With bombs hitting Baghdad 15 hours a day, Dominican priest Yousif Touma and the Christian community in Baghdad are terrified.

"We deal with the fear with our faith, but even Jesus was afraid on Holy Thursday. It is normal to be afraid," Touma said Tuesday by phone from Baghdad. "When we are together, it is easier, and when we know believers are praying for us, it is a little bit easier."

Touma urges Western Christians to both pray and donate money for humanitarian relief.

"Many people will be in need because our country is weak [after] 13 years of sanctions," said Touma, who edits a magazine called Christian Thought. "We want Christians to pray and make sure that nongovernmental organizations can bring supplies all over the country."

Few Christian relief organizations are working in Iraq at the moment. Many are coordinating their work through the ecumenical Middle East Council of Churches, based in Beirut, Lebanon. The MECC has 16 distribution centers across Iraq, with two or three employees each.

posted by Tom at 12:34 AM

Disaster News Network: Aid groups worry of
starvation, epidemics


BALTIMORE (March 26, 2003)

Humanitarian aid groups, worried about the potential for mass starvation and epidemics in Iraq due to malnutrition, polluted water and unhygienic hospital conditions, report they are in a holding pattern to bring in relief supplies to the people of Iraq.

Ships loaded with relief supplies hover in sight of the ports and trucks sit at the borders ready to bring food and medicines into the country.

But security and safety concerns for aid workers along with United Nations and military gatekeepers have shut the door for the time being on this outside assistance. Most aid workers from agencies outside Iraq withdrew from the country shortly before the war broke out leaving only local partners to carry on the work.

From the sidelines, a solid core of faith-based aid groups continue to support local partners and projects they put in place before the war broke out.

The whole article is well worth reading.
posted by Tom at 12:21 AM

Action by Churches Together: Iraqi churches continue relief work despite war
Amman, Jordan, March 27, 2003

Speaking from Baghdad a representative of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) today gave an account of the situation in the city and of the relief work carried out by the churches. MECC - a local member of the global alliance, Action by Churches Together (ACT) International - has been instrumental in setting up a church-based relief system, to respond to humanitarian needs as a consequence of military action against Iraq.

Speaking to ACT communicator Nils Carstensen in Amman, Jordan, he said, "All of us are affected by what’s going on. The children, the elderly - we all have a feeling at times that they are bombing everywhere and that there is no safe place in Baghdad. Even the markets and churches have been hit."

"When the bombing starts, my own son and daughter are terrified. They cry and cry and I can see the fear in my sons’ face. He does not want to eat and he holds his hands to his ears to try to keep the sounds of the bombs out. He’s doing that right now because they have just started bombing again. You can hear it."

"We are continuing to try to help people through churches and relief centres here in Baghdad and in places like Mosul and Basra. The situation in Basra is even worse than here, because the fighting is so much worse there."

"Today, I have distributed canned fish, spaghetti, juice and about 300 blankets to the centres and churches and tomorrow we’ll distribute more things. We continue to buy stocks of food for the relief centres, such as rice, tea, sugar, tomato paste, oil, milk powder, spaghetti, palm honey, jam, sardines and other canned goods. We have also distributed first aid kits and blankets. 147 water tanks are available. It is very difficult to find transport now, because of the danger of moving about but we’re still succeeding. Food is becoming scarce in the markets and the prices are going up. Still, only a few people have asked for assistance and we are trying to keep some of the stock for the coming days or weeks when the situation may be even worse."

"More people are now coming to the churches at night hoping that it may be safer to sleep there. Both Christians and Muslims are coming. In one church I know of, 150 people are sleeping there and in another 80. Some people have left the city for amongst other places, Mosul to the north. I hope to be able to go there soon to see if anything needs to be done for the relief centres there. Again it is difficult to undertake such travel but I hope we may succeed."

posted by Tom at 12:06 AM

Thursday, March 27, 2003
Previously unremarked anti-war statements from MECC member churches: The WCC compilation of statements on the war includes statements from:

posted by Tom at 11:15 PM

Three pieces of news from Samer Lahham in Syria:
  1. The historical Convent of St. Mary in Saydnaya village has opened its door to receive Iraqi families who have left Iraq before the war.

    Many other Iraqis refugees who can not support themselves are expected to be hosted in Convents and Monasteries related to the Antiochian Orthodox Patriarchate. The Patriarchate is also contacting the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate to offer the available support it has for many families staying at St. Ephram Monastery in Merret village nearby Saydnaya.

    Seeing the tragedy every day on TV and hearing about the horrible fight in the weeks to come motivate us to raise more profoundly our prayers to our Savior to interfere to end this catastrophe and inspire decision makers in the world over to find a peaceful solution. Let us join our prayers and our voices to be the voice of voiceless so that the power of resurrection prevail.

  2. In solidarity with Iraqi people who face every day severe attacks by the coalition forces, The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch & all the East under the instruction of its primate H. B. Patriarch Ignatius IV will dedicate the divine Liturgy on Sunday 30th of March 2003 to the people of Iraq. March 30 is also the Sunday of the Holy Cross according to Orthodox lent tradition. All Orthodox believers will pray for Iraqi children, widows, women and old people so that our God may help and strength them to stand against their enemies who hypocritically fight in the name of peace and democracy. The donations which will be collected after Liturgy will be used to help Iraqi people.
  3. In response to the tragic situation in Iraq and the horrible war which affects many civilians, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East under the instruction of His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV has launched a local campaign to collect donations from all Orthodox fellows through all Church related organizations in order to help many Iraqi refugees who have fled to Syria before the war.

    Many Iraqi families have rented small apartments and rooms in areas near Damascus. Area priests have reported that these people might deplete their own resources if the war continues for many weeks. Many of those refugees have already begun coming to churches seeking help and asking for part time jobs so that they can depend on themselves. Iraqi people are very sensitive, hating to feel like beggars when they used to be donors in the past.

    A March 22 meeting of Patriarchal workers and organizations drew up a plan to mobilize local funds and in kind donations and to arrange for proper places for accommodations for needy Iraqis in convents and monasteries. An ad hoc committee was appointed to oversee the plan. This committee will meet on regular basis and be in a direct contact with other organizations working in the same field. In addition, a patriarchal statement was addressed to all Orthodox people after the liturgy on Sunday March 23 inviting them to donate in all possible ways to support their Iraqi brothers. The Patriarchate will be highly appreciate to receive any support from its international partners and concerned individuals.

    As all Christian families are passing the Holy lent, we ask our God to look to the suffering people in Iraq, Palestine and in all places where suffering and persecution are existed, and to inspire decision makers to choose peaceful solutions so that this suffering and broken world deserve to receive the glorified Lord who will rise in the third day.

    For more information, please contact Samer Lahham at laham-s@scs-net.org

posted by Tom at 11:06 PM

UNHCR: UNHCR urges states to grant temporary protection to Iraqis
GENEVA, March 26 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency has distributed new guidelines to governments advising that asylum claims from individual Iraqi citizens not be processed for an initial period of three months, during which Iraqis should instead be granted temporary protection.

The guidelines were forwarded to all governments and non-governmental organisations this week by UNHCR's Department of International Protection.


"Temporary protection" is a collective protection scheme granted for whole groups of asylum seekers. It is usually applied when mass movements of refugees occur whose reasons for flight are obvious. It then proves impractical and time consuming to verify those refugees on a case-by-case basis.

posted by Tom at 10:36 PM

The Independent: John Davidson discusses the Basra water situation:
The sudden collapse of a population's water supply is the most serious of humanitarian emergencies. People affected by a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or a flood, are more likely to fall ill and die from diseases related to inadequate water and sanitation than from any other single cause. And the effects are seen very quickly.
Water and sanitation experts at charities and non-governmental organistations say people start to fall ill after just two or three days without clean water.
Inevitably, the most vulnerable are affected first and suffer the most. That includes children under five, the elderly, the sick and the malnourished. In a city such as Basra, where health standards were already poor before the hostilities, that will be a very high proportion of the population.

posted by Tom at 10:18 PM

Added permalink to the Humanitarian Information Center for Iraq.
posted by Tom at 9:49 PM

Wednesday, March 26, 2003
From Reliefweb: Caritas Iraq responds to plea for help from archbishop in Basrah:
Vatican City - Caritas Iraq has sent supplies of medicines and first aid kits from its centres in Baghdad to Basrah in response to an appeal for help from Archbishop Gibrael Kassab of Basrah.

Archbishop Kassab made the appeal with mounting fears in Basrah of an outbreak of disease after the breakdown in the electricity supply. Electricity is vital to run Iraq's water purification plants as well as its water sewage treatment.

Some 60% of the people of the city are now being forced to drink water from the rivers which are contaminated with sewage. UNICEF has warned that up to 100,000 children under the age of five could be at serious risk of disease.

Also, Medecins Sans Frontieres is trying to get an aid shipment through on the Amman-Baghdad road.
posted by Tom at 5:39 PM

The World Council of Churches now has a list of Church and church-related Statements on the War. Not completely comprehensive yet, but it should be eventually.
posted by Tom at 4:55 PM

Official MECC site: Letter on the war and Humanitarian response:

Not much happening yet, except for inside Iraq:

Before war broke out, the council was working to guarantee food supplies in eight main centers in Baghdad, four centers in Mosul, and two each in Basrah and Kirkuk. All of these centers are based in churches and each has a supervisor assigned to it. These centers were 75% provisioned and are now distributing food to Iraqis in need, both Christians and Muslims. The council’s emergency response program also worked to dig 50 artesian wells on church grounds and in other places, and equipped them to be used when pressing need arose.

The latest news from the coordinator of the program in Iraq, Edward Ishu, reports that materials in these centers have almost been exhausted. Therefore, we are gearing up to resupply them in so far as we are able and conditions permit.

posted by Tom at 4:09 PM

Dar Al Hayat English Edition: Two interpretations of the War by Rabih Jaber:
He says that life is war and that the world is a jungle, and that he realizes this from the looks of the people around him, from the harshness of the voice and angry look. He says he stands before his students in the classroom, draws maps on the board and speaks for hours about Andalusia and the dark ages, the wars of Napoleon, but he realizes that he is not speaking about the past, because the past continues to flow into the future. He says this new war is enervating him. No longer can he sleep early, and when he wakes up at dawn, he feels pain in his knee.

Go read the whole thing.
posted by Tom at 2:23 PM

Tuesday, March 25, 2003
ICRC: update on water situation in Basra
  • ICRC technicians have reached the Wafa-Al-Quaid water plant north of Basra that provides most of the city's water. The ICRC hopes that as soon as possible, preferably today, it will be able to carry out the necessary repairs to ensure that the plant can produce water again. However, for the network to become operational there needs to be sufficient pressure in the system, and this can take a while.
  • Most of Basra has been without water since Friday, 21 March, because of a power cut. On Saturday the ICRC and local technicians found a temporary solution to restore water to about 30-40% of the city. The water provided is drinkable but not of very high quality. However, media reports indicate that many citizens have had to start taking water directly from rivers. The ICRC therefore remains concerned about a possible public health crisis.
  • The back-up generators only offer a temporary solution. During the next few days, the ICRC hopes to be able to facilitate access for local technicians who may be able to assess the damage to high-power voltage lines and repair it.

posted by Tom at 7:12 PM

WFN: Heads of (US) National Council of Churches, two Muslim organizations, issue joint statement on Iraq
March 24, 2003 - The General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, Secretary General of the Islamic Circle of North America and Secretary
General of the Islamic Society of North America today issued the following
joint statement:

Muslims and Christians Unite in Prayer and Concern

We are deeply saddened that military action against Iraq has begun. We pray
now for a quick conclusion to this war, for the loss of as few lives as
possible, and for peace. In the darkness of war, let us be guided by faith
and hope, and continue to act as responsible citizens and peace-builders.

We pray for the people of Iraq, and grieve for those who may now bear more
tragedy in addition to the severe hardships and loss of loved ones suffered
over the last twelve years. We pray as well for all those serving in the
armed forces, that they may return home to their families safely and soon.

We pray for the leaders of our nation, and of the international community,
that they may be guided by God to uphold peace, and allow God's mercy to
influence their policies and actions.

posted by Tom at 6:22 PM

Zenit News Service: Iraqi Christians Consecrate Country to Mary, "Queen of Peace"
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21, 2003 (Zenit.org).- This afternoon, different Christian Churches in Iraq will consecrate the country to the Virgin Mary.

The solemn act will take place at 6:00 p.m. in the Chaldean-rite Cathedral of St. Joseph in Baghdad, before a statue of the pilgrim Virgin, Queen of Peace, Vatican Radio confirmed.

For the past few days, the Christians of Baghdad have gathered to pray around the statue of the pilgrim Virgin, in many churches of the city. The statue has been on pilgrimage in Iraq since 1998. The announcement of the consecration was made on Sunday, March 16, in all the churches of the capital.

posted by Tom at 6:12 PM

UNHCR Iraq page added to permalinks
posted by Tom at 6:01 PM

Official MECC Site: List of Contacts for MECC Iraq Crisis Response

The table came out a little funny, but the contact information is all there.
posted by Tom at 5:58 PM

ReliefWeb roundup:
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees Briefing Notes: Iraq Region: As yet, no major movement of refugees. The report focuses mainly on their work to prepare camps in Iran (particularly southern Iran, near to Basra) and Turkey.
  • Iraq: No IDP crisis yet says ICRC: While there are several hundred thousand internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Iraq, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) maintains that the situation has yet to reach crisis point. "For the time being, we don't think that there is a major crisis," an ICRC spokesman, Florian Westphal, told IRIN from Geneva on Monday. "The majority of those displaced left before the conflict, leaving the cities for the villages relatively well prepared."
  • Reuters: Iraqis hunt for water and food in south by Michael Georgy:

    NEAR ZUBAYR, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqis drink dirty water from wells. Others comb hospitals searching for medicine. Civilians pose as soldiers and try to surrender, hoping U.S. or British forces will feed them.

    A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in southern Iraq five days into the U.S.-British invasion aimed at toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

    The biggest grievance is lack of water, with supplies cut off by a thunderous ground and air assault in the south, home to Iraq's Shi'ite Muslims, many of whom are eager to see Saddam go.

    "We need water. All we can do is dig for water in wells. It is water that even animals would not drink," said 30-year-old Muhammad Ali, who is unemployed.

    [ -- Editor's note: if you only read one article from this blog today, read this one --]

posted by Tom at 3:17 PM

MECC Official Site: Update on Preparations in Syria and Lebanon:
  • The Syrian border with Iraq is open.
  • The Hall camp near the border with Iraq (near the Syrian town of Hasakeh) is presently set up to handle 12,000 refugees. It could be expanded to accommodate 20,000.
  • Refugees have not yet started arriving in numbers in Syria. There are some 90 refugees who still live in the Hall camp, having arrived there in 1991(!).
  • In both Syria and Lebanon, many Iraqis have arrived but are staying with friends or relatives or otherwise are still relying on their own resources. If the war drags on, they may need aid at a future date.
  • MECC is in the process of organizing the local churches to help out in assistance efforts.

posted by Tom at 2:42 PM

The Reformed Church in America has issued an appeal for Iraq.
posted by Tom at 1:40 AM

Reuters AlertNet: In Churches, Hospitals and Camps, Aid Ready and in Progress for Familes and Children
Lutheran World Relief's Iraq aid, underway for months, is ready to help people who flee their homes, is already helping sick children and is strengthening aid management.

Iraqi church aid workers are on the job and report that life "is still going on" and that people have not moved to shelters yet. But 52 local church shelters and supply depots are now ready in four Iraqi cities. The refuges - offering a place to sleep, water and food - are located in neighborhood churches and also in some local mosques.

"Setting up these shelters is a service for the whole community," said Edmond Adam, a Middle East Council of Churches official based in Jordan. Church assistance for those in need is welcome and people understand why it is offered, he noted. MECC is a long-time partner of LWR and both organizations are part of Action by Churches Together, an international emergency alliance that is coordinating Iraq crisis aid.

posted by Tom at 1:15 AM

Reuters AlertNet: Iraq appeals worth $2 billion set to start
LONDON (AlertNet) - Emergency appeals totalling up to $2 billion are expected to get under way this week in the wake of the assault on Iraq and ahead of what could be one of the largest ever humanitarian operations.

U.N. agencies, many parts of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement and a host of non-governmental organisations are launching or relaunching appeals to assist Iraqi civilians.

It's a kind of confusing article. You almost need a scorecard to keep track of all the names.
posted by Tom at 1:13 AM

Monday, March 24, 2003
ReliefWeb Iraq page added to permalinks.
posted by Tom at 8:40 PM

ICRC reports permalinked.
posted by Tom at 8:15 PM

Sydney Morning Herald: Water, vital supplies run desperately low
By David Finkel

March 25 2003

Water supplies in the southern city of Basra and parts of Baghdad have reportedly been cut off or contaminated in fighting, leaving up to 2 million people without safe drinking water, aid agencies say.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, one of the few aid organisations working in Iraq, said electricity cables powering the Wafa al-Quaid water station had been destroyed.

It claims the station was under coalition control. But in the past 24 hours the committee has been able to get medicine and surgical supplies to two Baghdad hospitals and patch together a source of water for the residents of Basra, said a spokeswoman, Tamara Al-Rifai.

"Since Friday night, the water treatment plants in Basra have not been functioning because of power cuts," she said. Now, 40 per cent of the population does have water, she said, although the water they are drinking is treated river water from the Euphrates.

Almost no humanitarian aid has reached Iraq since the start of the war, and unanticipated military battles and logistical problems in southern Iraq made it unclear when aid will arrive for people who in some cases are without water and electricity.

posted by Tom at 8:09 PM

Detroit News: Metro (Detroit) Iraqis Unnerved by War
FARMINGTON HILLS -- As American forces encircled Basra, a Chaldean cleric there reported in a last, hurried phone call to his family in Detroit that at least 350 refugees had crowded into one of the city's five Catholic churches.

"We are running out of food," said Archbishop Gabriel Kassab from the Cathedral of Mar Ephraim. "We are running out of good water."

That was three days ago. Now, none of the calls from his frustrated relatives are getting through. Instead, they watch television for news of the fate of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city.

"We're really desperate to know what's happening," said the archbishop's brother, Joseph Kassab of Farmington Hills. "Our prayers go out to everyone there. We don't want to see anything happen to anyone, the American troops or the Iraqi people. They've been suffering with this kind of thing for a very long time now."

posted by Tom at 8:05 PM

Sunday, March 23, 2003
From Islamic Republic News Agency (Iran): Iran to provide services for Iraqi refugees
Tehran, March 23 -- Iran is planning to provide services for
the Iraqi refugees fleeing a devastating war on their country by the
US and British military troops.

In a Kurdestan provincial security council meeting on Saturday,
the local officials discussed the latest developments in Iraq and the
ways to provide services for those fleeing the war.

According to the information dissemination committee of the Iraq
Crisis Control Headquarters, relief providing teams have been
established in the cities of Marivan and Baneh in the vicinity of
Iraqi territory to set up camps for the war refugees.


Iran on Thursday closed its borders with Iraq shortly after the
US-led attack against the regime of Saddam Hussein started.

The head of the Iranian Interior Ministry's refugee crisis
headquarters Ahmad Hosseini said a few days ago any Iranian assistance
to probable refugees would be carried out inside the Iraqi soil.

Hosseini predicted that a protracted war would unleash a refugee
influx of between 500,000 to 1.2 million towards Iranian borders.

posted by Tom at 4:02 PM

From New York Newsday: A Nervous Waiting Game:
Ruweished, Jordan -- On the windswept sand and gravel of Jordan's borderland with Iraq, relief workers are scrambling to build tent cities for what is one of their worst nightmares amid the war: an exodus of uprooted Iraqis.

But after three days of war, the 400-mile desert road from Baghdad is virtually empty. No Iraqi has shown up at the border to seek sanctuary.

Jordanian laborers erected rows of tents and latrines yesterday for a camp to hold at least 10,000 Iraqis, and UN refugee officials say they are prepared to feed and manage that many people. But, they say, if things go badly -- with a protracted battle for control of Baghdad, for example -- it could be 600,000 who might flee. And, officials say, they are not nearly ready for that.

posted by Tom at 3:49 PM

From BBC Online: Exodus in northern Iraq
Up to 500,000 people in northern Iraq have fled their homes ahead of the US-led invasion - and the movement is continuing, a UN aid agency has said.

The UN Office of the Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq (UNOHCI) estimated there were currently between 300,000 to 450,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the region.

It said most of them had fled the towns of Kirkuk, Erbil, Dahuk and Sulaymaniayh and were heading to outlying villages further north into the Kurdish-held areas.

"It is estimated that 90% of the IDPs are staying with relatives and are not in need of immediate assistance," UNOHCI said in its latest report, released on 21 March.

But it said "there are serious concerns for the health situation of those who are not appropriately sheltered", adding that urgent relief plans were under way.

posted by Tom at 3:43 PM

From Channel NewsAsia: Syria willing to take in Iraqi refugees
Syrian authorities plan to allow Iraqi war refugees to cross their border and have informed humanitarian organisations to that effect, a Syrian minister said Friday.

"Syria has informed international organisations of the United Nations of their readiness to cooperate with them and other humanitarian groups," Local Administration Minister Hilal Atrash said.

posted by Tom at 3:40 PM

The International Committee for the Red Cross has an Iraq page here and reports from their field staff here. (latest update as of this writing was from March 21.)
posted by Tom at 3:35 PM