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Concern over access by Iraqis to relief supplies

Security Council voices concern over access by Iraqis to relief supplies

After hearing an update on the humanitarian situation in Iraq by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette today, the members of the Security Council expressed their concern regarding the Iraqi population's access to relief help.

Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser of Mexico, which holds the Council's rotating Presidency for April, said in a press statement that members noted the comments of Ms. Fréchette "indicating that while there is not a critical situation at present, there still remains the danger of so."

He also said Council members expressed concern "regarding access of relief assistance to the Iraqi population," adding that following the adoption of resolution 1472, "immediate measures have been taken for the prioritization of contracts and the coordination with neighbouring countries to establish alternative ports of delivery" for relief supplies.

In a closed-door briefing to the Council earlier Thursday, Ms. Fréchette said there had been firm indications or pledges of some $1.2 billion in response to the $2.2 billion emergency appeal launched last week by the UN, according to a UN spokesman.

Ms. Fréchette noted there were water and electricity shortages in cities, including Basra where shortages were up to 50 per cent and Baghdad, spokesman Fred Eckhard said. She also told the Council that water and sanitation supplies, including water treatment and hygiene items, were needed. Disruption of potable water supplies increased the likelihood of epidemics, and medicine was required to treat them. Hospitals were starting to run out of certain supplies.

The Deputy Secretary-General also pointed out that more than 3,000 UN national staff were doing their best to continue providing essential assistance to the extent possible, Mr. Eckhard said. Meanwhile, a UN security assessment mission went to the southern port of Um Qasr, just over the border from Kuwait, and recommended that UN staff be authorized to start operations there.

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