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UN Aid Agency to Ask for One Billion to Feed Iraqis - 2003-03-25


Iraq Aid - Budget Latest 3-25

With food dwindling for millions of Iraqis, a UN aid agency will make the biggest single request for cash in its history, more than $1 billion to help feed the war-stricken nation for about six months. The World Food Program says about 16 million people, 60 percent of Iraq's 27 million, are completely dependent on food handouts.

Brian Purchia has more.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says the coalition is committed to supporting the United Nations to get the oil-for-food program up and running again in Iraq.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER
“We should be clear that it is not military action that will create humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq. The humanitarian disaster is here and now."

In the meantime, some Iraqis say they are suffering.

IRAQI MAN
"My children is hungry. My old man hungry. My woman hungry."

The International Red Cross warned of a possible humanitarian crisis in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, where residents have been living without water and electricity since Friday.

NATURAL SOUND GUNFIRE

There is still fighting around the city, which has forced troops to delay plans to distribute needed food. Defense Department Spokeswoman Victoria Clark.

VICTORIA CLARK, SPOKESPERSON FOR THE PENTAGON
"There are stockpiles of huge amounts of food. And medicine and help and shelter and those sorts of things that are on the borders"

Continued fighting and security concerns in Basra have also hampered efforts to deliver aid.

Iraq's trade minister Mohammed Mahdi Saleh urged the United Nations to allow the immediate delivery of food and medicine that is already at Iraq's borders.

MOHAMMED MAHDI SALEH, IRAQ’S TRADE MINISTER
“Eight million dollars was dedicated only to the food and medicine supplies, which has been stopped by the borders."

Meanwhile, British officials say coalition forces are "now in total control" of the southern Iraqi port town of Umm Qasr, a key port for humanitarian shipments to Iraq.

Coalition Commander Gen. Tommy Franks.

GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, COALITION COMMANDER
"We'll begin to deliver needed humanitarian assistance food, water, medicine to Iraqis within the next few days."

U.S. policymakers fear delays in delivering humanitarian aid could harm their efforts to persuade the Iraqi people that an invasion to remove Saddam Hussein is worthwhile.

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