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Iraq: Improved Aid Worker Security, Access Needed

Iraq: UN relief officials urge improved security and access for aid workers

4 April 2008 - Senior United Nations humanitarian officials has called for an end to the deadly violence besetting Iraq and for safe access for aid workers trying to deliver food, clean water and other vital supplies to millions in need.

"Unfortunately, in Iraq today access is often hindered by ongoing hostilities and restrictions on freedom of movement," Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told reporters in Amman, Jordan. "Aid workers must be able to reach people in need with timely, life-saving assistance."

Mr. Holmes, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said a combination of violence and the deterioration of basic services have worsened the situation of the Iraqi people. The UN and its partners are working to alleviate their plight, while keeping in mind the safety of humanitarian workers.

The UN relief chief, who was unable to go to Iraq for security reasons, travelled to Amman to discuss the humanitarian situation in Iraq with relevant officials.

Noting that humanitarian needs in Iraq have risen dramatically in the last two years, he emphasized the need to make the most of any "localised security improvements and pockets of stability" to expand relief efforts.

"We are scaling up the emergency response wherever conditions allow, and hope that the $265 million appeal launched in February will be fully funded by donors," he stated.

David Shearer, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, recently conducted a joint assessment mission with Iraqi officials to Basra, which has seen increased hostilities in recent weeks.

"While we are no longer facing a humanitarian crisis in Basra, some families still need support," Mr. Shearer said. "The UN's priority now is to support Basra's local government in redoubling its own assistance efforts for the most vulnerable families."

Even before the recent violence in the governorate subsided, the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were able to begin their relief efforts there. As the security situation improves, they are stepping up their operations to reach thousands in need.

Meanwhile, limited humanitarian access in Sadr City in Baghdad continues to impede aid efforts to some of the city's poorest areas, Mr. Shearer noted, adding that it is essential to work together with the Government and neighbouring countries to alleviate the plight of the Iraqi people.

Mr. Holmes reiterated the international community's commitment to respond to both the humanitarian crisis inside Iraq and to the displacement it has prompted in the region. "We are doing all we can to meet the needs of millions of suffering Iraqis, both those inside the country and beyond its borders, by strengthening our overall humanitarian coordination and response," he said.

ENDS

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