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CNEWA Seeks Funds to Continue Humanitarian Aid in Iraq

05 Sep 2003 – NEW YORK – Catholic Near East Welfare Association’s long-term aid to Iraq is in danger of being cut off due to a lack of funds available to assist the war-torn country.

“The postwar situation in Iraq is chaotic, but the people there desperately need our help,” said Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s Regional Director for Jordan and Iraq. At the same time, Mr. Bahou reported in a telephone conversation from Amman, his office has nearly exhausted funds for purchasing food, medicines and other supplies to help needy Iraqis.

Immediately after the war ended, CNEWA began to send convoys of food, medicine and medical supplies to Iraq. “Our convoys have had no problems getting through to the distribution points,” Mr. Bahou said. “Theproblem we have is supplying the convoys.”

CNEWA has been providing Iraq with humanitarian aid for more than 10 years, using the church’s internal network of clergy, religious and laity to distribute supplies. In addition to the current emergency aid, CNEWA’s future assistance will include education, job training and job creation programs, as well as an expansion of its health care programs.

Addressing the current needs, Mr. Bahou said, “Right now, water purification units are a priority. Without clean water, there is the danger ofdisease. The water delivery system to homes depends on electricity,” he said, “and with the collapse of civil authority, only four hours of electricity are available a day.”

Another need that CNEWA is meeting, Mr. Bahou said, has been the delivery of canned food supplies. “There is no gas for cooking. Canned products work the best. They do not need refrigeration and the hot weather now is a problem,” he said. “This program is vital and we must continue it.”

“Health care is also on our agenda,” Mr. Bahou said. The DominicanSisters are meeting Iraqi health needs at two Catholic hospitals in Baghdad, Al Hayat and St. Raphael’s. “The hospitals are also going to the people,” Mr. Bahou reported. “Dispensaries have been set up in parts of Baghdad and in some towns and villages.

“For the most part, the people are patient, they are calm,” Mr. Bahou said. “After 30 years of oppression, they know change won’t happen overnight. You must remember, many of them do not know the meaning of the word ‘democracy,’” he added.

“We are looking ahead to the days when Iraq has its own government,” Mr. Bahou said. “We are interested in building a clinic in Mosul modeled on the Mother of Mercy clinic that we have in Zerqa [Jordan]. It will offer prenatal and postnatal care. But we need licenses and permission to proceed. And the provisional government has other problems to deal with like maintaining order and restoring utilities and communication networks.”