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UN Identifies Over $1 Billion in Supplies for Iraq - 2003-04-02

The United Nations has identified more than one-billion dollars worth of the most needed supplies for the Iraqi people. But delivering the supplies quickly will be a challenge. The oil-for-food program, which was suspended just prior to the war, had provided the sole source of food to 60 percent of Iraqis.

The Security Council voted Tuesday to resume the program under the authority of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, for a 45-day period. But it does not pay for some regionally produced food and other humanitarian supplies, such as tents, water and purification equipment, and the United Nations is appealing for an extra $1.3 billion to pay for those. So far, the World Food Program says it has received pledged of $115 million, including $60 million from the United States.

World Food Organization's Phillip Ward says that many of the oil-for-food orders are coming from countries far from Iraq, and that makes speedy delivery of the aid a problem. "A lot of these supplies are coming from a long way away and can take several weeks to arrive and it is for that reason that we have asked so much for the donor community for immediate cash contributions which would allow us to purchase items in the region so that we would be able to make sure that we would have food there that we would be able to supply when we need it rather than having to wait for this time lag of commodities to arrive," says Mr. Ward.

Contracts with suppliers had previously been made directly with the Iraqi governement. Now, the United Nations is working directly with the suppliers and trying to identify locations both inside and outside Iraq for delivery.

Mr. Ward says that the U.N. teams will turn to the military for distribution only as a last resort. He says that the relief workers are quote "working against the clock" to deliver the aid within the 45-day period. "We are stuck with this. Certainly the 45 days is a constraint and it would be optimal to have a greater period of time but this is what we have to work with and we will do what we can within it."

Mr. Ward says that the World Food Program has already delivered about 60 metric tons of dried skim milk to Iraq.