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UN Units Aid in Iraq Relief Efforts - 2003-05-06

United Nationls officials say that more relief workers are arriving in Iraq to expand their operations in the country.

U.N. officials say they are coordinating their humanitarian activities in Iraq with the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance headed by Jay Garner, the American official who is overseeing Iraq's post-war reconstruction.

According to the U.N. officials, their duty is to fill in gaps and not duplicate efforts. Spokeswoman Marie Hueze said there never was any question that the U.N. agencies would play a major role in helping the people of Iraq.

"It was never said that the United Nations should not play a role in the humanitarian sector and this is very clear from the universal mandate that all the U.N. agencies have," she said.

Several U.N. agencies are operating in Iraq.

The U.N. children's agency is helping to re-establish education services, as well as supplies of water and sanitation facilities. Another U.N. agency, the World Food Program, is distributing food aid now in northern Iraq, and is making plans for future disbursements in the south and central areas of the country.

World Food Program spokeswoman Christiane Bertiaume says the United States has been cooperating with her agency's effort in Iraq. "The proof that the humanitarian aspect of the problem is a concern to the United States is: Our biggest contributor so far to our $1.3 billion appeal is the United States," she sid.

Ms. Bertiaume said the World Food Program has brought more than 88,000 tons of food into Iraq, which is enough to feed six million people for one month. But she says that amount must be increased because to feed all the Iraqis in need would require about 480,000 tons of food aid per month.

Finally, World Health Organization officials say they are working with the interim government to get Iraq's health system up and running soon. The officials say WHO teams are surveying hospitals to see what medicines and equipment are needed so that Iraqi health workers can resume treating patients.