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    Red Cross Appeals for Nearly $30 Million for Iraq

    The International Committee of the Red Cross is appealing for nearly $30 million to substantially increase its humanitarian work in Iraq. The ICRC says it has spent almost all the money it had allocated for its assistance operations in Iraq this year. The additional funds requested will bring the organization's total budget for 2007 to about $75 million. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

    The year has barely begun and yet the International Committee of the Red Cross says it is strapped for cash. It says the needs are growing as the humanitarian crisis in Iraq is growing and the population is finding it increasingly difficult to cope.

    The ICRC head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa, Beatrice Megevand-Roggo, tells VOA she does not believe the so-called security surge led by the United States has improved conditions for most of the people. She says the conflict continues to inflict immense suffering on all Iraqis.

    "For the population living in Iraq things are not getting any better in terms of daily life, in terms of exposure to violence and risks. I mean events over the last few days, there have been so many attacks and there have been so many victims. I mean 200 people were killed in one single attack last week," she said. "It is constant and not really going down. In terms of humanitarian consequences, we definitely do not see an improvement."

    The Red Cross says it plans to use part of the money requested to help the growing numbers of internally displaced people and the resident communities that host them. An estimated 900,000 Iraqis have fled their homes for safer parts of the country.

    The Red Cross says it also will assist other vulnerable groups including the elderly, disabled people, orphans and women who head households.

    Megevand-Roggo says the Red Cross plans to increase its distributions of food and other essential items to about 100,000 destitute households. That is approximately 660,000 people. She says this is more than twice the number initially planned for this year.

    "We want to extend the assistance to the hospitals and medical structures, especially to cope with war wounded, but not only. We plan to increase our activities in the water and habitat programs," said Megevand-Roggo. "This money goes mainly to the extension of activities that are already in place. It is just that we need more money because there are many more needs and many more people in need."

    Megevand-Roggo says the longer the war goes on, the more difficult it will become for people to find places of refuge. She says some communities are overwhelmed by the numbers of displaced people they are hosting and are not admitting any more.

    At the same time, she says the prospect that people will be able to go back to the homes they fled is becoming less and less realistic because of the ongoing sectarian violence.

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