- Registration time
- Last login
- Online time
- 1337 Hour
- Reading permission
Christian Relief Organizations Gear Up for Crisis in Iraq|
Senior Editor, News & Culture
As the clock ticks down on Saddam Hussein's opportunities to disarm, international relief organizations such as World Vision and the newly formed Refugee Highway Partnership are preparing for war. And because some experts believe Iraq is poorly prepared for such a crisis, these steps are even more critical.
Rupen Das, director of humanitarian assistance for World Vision Canada, told Crosswalk.com that some 30 percent of the kids within Iraq are chronically malnourished. "Four percent of children under 5 are acutely malnourished. Sixty percent of the population is dependent totally on government rations, which lasts them about three weeks. This has been going on for 12 years," he reported.
Das was part of an international assessment team that traveled to Iraq Jan. 19-26 to gauge the impact of war on Iraq's civilian population. "We were inside Iraq about eight or nine days and we had incredible access to senior leadership. We were allowed to interview over 100 kids and their mothers in their homes. Besides that, we could visit hospitals and schools in the cities of Baghdad, Bassora and Karbala."
According to Das, the team looked at the status of the children after two wars and 12 years of sanctions. "My job specifically was to look at the level of preparedness by the Iraqi people, by the government, by the international aid agencies within the country and by the UN. The findings were interesting. The Iraqi common man on the street has never really recovered from the Gulf War and the sanctions have made it worse.
"The population is probably as vulnerable as it could be," Das added. "Looking at the possible scale of disaster that 16 million people could be without food within a month of any conflict starting, we're not even ready to respond to that scale."
In the last two weeks, some agencies have begun to "pre-position" staff and look at supplies. The Canadian office of World Vision, along with World Vision US, Australia and Germany and others, are pre-positioning supplies in Europe and the neighboring countries - supplies like blankets, kitchen utensils, medicines, emergency supplies - to address the need if there is refugee movement.
No international agency is planning to be stationed inside the borders of Iraq during a war. "Until it is reasonably safe for the international community to go back in and to provide the aid, we will be addressing the issues of displaced people from the surrounding countries," said Das. "At the first instance when it is possible for the UN and agencies like World Vision to go in, we will be in there, providing the assistance as necessary."
Another organization that will focus on the migration of Iraqis is the newly formed Refugee Highway Partnership, which has launched a Crisis Response Network. Falling under the umbrella of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Missions Commission, the Refugee Highway Partnership is working to help churches and organizations respond well together in the event of a humanitarian crisis.
In its initial stage, the network will serve by collecting and publishing profiles of Christian organizations that have declared their intentions to prepare for and respond to an Iraqi refugee crisis. The response database has the further benefit of encouraging the cooperation of Christian organizations preparing similar types of responses.
Organizations or churches that have a response plan to serve Iraqi refugees are invited to post their response profiles at http://refugeehighway.net. The church at large is invited to view these profiles and consider how they can help through one of the participating organizations.
Meanwhile, Stop Hunger Now, a Raleigh, N.C.-based relief organization, has launched the "20-4-4 Iraq Crisis Appeal" to help relieve hunger in Iraq. Under the plan, emergency food boxes can be prepared for $20, each of which can feed an Iraqi family of four for four weeks. You can get more information at www.stophungernow.org.
The relief organization has previously worked in Iraq, helping to feed young girls in two orphanages. Now working with both the Middle East Council of Churches, Stop Hunger Now is already helping to provide food aid in case of war.
"The suffering of the population has grown steadily worse since the Gulf War," says Rev. Ray Buchanan, President & CEO of Stop Hunger Now. "The humanitarian community has to do all in its power to meet this crisis."