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World Vision halts Iraq operations

Thu, 18 Nov 2004

World Vision halts Iraq operations in wake of violence

World Vision has suspended aid operations in Iraq indefinitely following months of violence culminating in the abduction and apparent murder of CARE aid worker Margaret Hassan.

World Vision Iraq director Ian Curtis said last night it was impossible for the agency to work in the current insecure environment.

For several months the agency has withdrawn all expatriate staff to facilitate operations from Amman, Jordan. Meanwhile less conspicuous Iraqi nationals had continued the hands on work, often operating from home and using unmarked vehicles.

However the fatal shooting, at the end of September, of World Vision's officer in charge, in a cafe in northern Iraq, demonstrated nationals were just as vulnerable. The shooting followed a telephoned death threat just hours earlier.

World Vision New Zealand communications officer James Addis said today the latter half of 2004 had been an especially difficult year for aid agencies beginning with the murder of five Medecins Sans Frontieres workers following an ambush in Afghanistan in June.

Violence had also disrupted World Vision activities in Darfur, Sudan and Herat, Afghanistan, and seen the complete withdrawal of a number of other aid agencies.

The sad reality is that those who seek to restore peace and stability are becoming the target of those intent on destroying it, Mr Addis said.

He said World Vision was profoundly saddened by the possible killing of Margaret Hassan and expressed its deepest sympathy to her husband, family and CARE colleagues.

World Vision's operations in Iraq had included the rehabilitation of schools and hospitals and the delivery of essential supplies to internally displaced and poor urban families.

ENDS

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