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UN Humanitarian Agencies Making Preparations for Possible Iraq War - 2003-02-14

The United Nation's humanitarian agencies are mobilizing resources in preparation for a possible war in Iraq. The U.N. says it has less than half of what it needs.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan convened the Security Council for a closed-door meeting to discuss the United Nations' readiness to respond to humanitarian needs should war break out in Iraq.

After the talks, the U.N.'s emergency relief roordinator, Kenzo Oshima, told reporters that the $30 million that have been pledged since December are not enough.

A U.S. diplomat said the United States has pledged about $18 million for contingency planning for Iraq and intends to announce additional funding.

Mr. Oshima says the United Nations will request about 90-million more for humanitarian needs. "The United Nations humanitarian role will be to make sure that we will have enough measures that will allow us and the international humanitarian community to alleviate suffering and provide life saving assistance and of course parties to the conflict will be expected to meet their obligations to protect and assist civilian populations under international humanitarian law," he said.

Mr. Oshima says that military conflict will disrupt already existing food programs, of which about 80 percent of Iraqis are currently dependent on.

He says that the United Nations is ready to feed about 250,000 people for about 10 weeks. However, preliminary plans assume that, in case of war, up to 10 million people may require food assistance, and half of the population will be left without access to potable water.

The U.N. also anticipates some two million Iraqis will flee to neighboring countries, and is packing special high-nutrition biscuits to feed children.

The U.N. staff, including workers on the "oil for food program," will have to be evacuated and will return only after cessation of hostilities.