The non-stop violence in Iraq is overshadowing a humanitarian crisis, with eight million Iraqis–nearly one in three–in need of emergency aid, says a new report released by the international agency Oxfam and NCCI, a network of about 80 international and 200 local NGOs established in Baghdad in 2003 to help assess and meet the needs of the Iraqi population.
The report, based on research from the United Nations, the Iraqi government, and nonprofit organizations Oxfam works with or finances, offers little original data. But it provides one of the most comprehensive pictures to date of the human crisis within Iraq and what it describes as a slow-motion response from Iraq’s government, the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union.
The numbers presented by Oxfam offer a stark contrast to the picture of steadily improving conditions painted by the Iraqi government and the US military over the past several months, as Megan Greenwell notes in the Washington Post.
According to the report:
•Four million Iraqis – 15 percent – cannot buy enough to eat.
•70 percent are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50 percent in 2003.
•28 percent of children are malnourished, compared to 19 percent before the invasion.
•92 percent of Iraqi children suffer learning problems.
•43 percent of Iraqis live in “absolute poverty,” earning less than one dollar a day.
•More than two million people have been displaced inside Iraq.
•A further two million Iraqis have become refugees, mainly in Syria and Jordan.
Watch this brief BBC report on the report for a visual sense of the depths of the crisis.
Up until 2004, Oxfam had staff working inside Iraq but withdrew them due to chronic security problems. It now supports domestic and international aid agencies which are able to operate in Iraq from an office in Amman, Jordan.
Many humanitarian organizations refuse to accept money from governments with troops in Iraq for fear of jeopardizing both their security and independence. Therefore the report urges international donor governments that have not sent troops to Iraq to provide increased emergency funding for humanitarian action.
The solutions proposed by Oxfam, which opposed the American invasion, include far more aid by the Iraqi government and from abroad and the decentralizing of the distribution of food and medical supplies. The group also called for a doubling of the monthly $100 cash allowances to households headed by widows.
The best way to halt this growing humanitarian crisis is, of course, to end the war and occupation. Toward that goal, activists are spending August putting pressure on members of Congress when they are on recess in their home districts; are planning for a week of coordinated nonviolent actions in September and are organizing a raft of local and national actions on October 21 to highlight the connections between the war in Iraq and the global warming crisis. There are also a series of good bills well worth supporting being put forth by those few Democratic legislators who actually want to end the war.
But in the interim before this bloody war is finally over a donation to Oxfam will help the group continue to provide relief to the people of Iraq.