24 October 2003


NEW YORK, 23 October (OCHA) -- At the International Conference on Reconstruction in Iraq, in Madrid, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland noted that United Nations humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people is more than two decades old.  This continued commitment to assist always has, and always will be, independent of the political circumstances at the time.  The United Nations is starting a new and important phase in humanitarian operations as it helps build a bridge from emergency operations to reconstruction and development.  Future programmes will address the needs of vulnerable communities and support basic social services through expertise, in-kind assistance and capacity-building for Iraqi institutions.

He noted substantial achievements through the effective assistance of United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations, together with Iraqi partners.  For example, the Public Distribution System has delivered more than 2 million tons of food and other commodities since April.  Some 15 million litres of water are being tankered every day to people in need.  An immunization campaign reached about 1 million children last month, and a campaign to support more than 1,100 primary health-care centres started in late September.  Other programmes include employment generation, rehabilitation in the electricity sector, assistance to internally displaced persons, support to agriculture and a range of capacity-building activities, assessments and surveys.

However, he added that the United Nations’ ability to move around the country and interact with those directly in need remains very restricted, and extensive measures have been taken to enhance the security of United Nations facilities and staff since the 19 August and 22 September attacks in Baghdad.

He also highlighted two key priorities for the humanitarian community in the coming months:  to ensure that the basic needs of the most vulnerable Iraqis are met, and to build the capacity of Iraq institutions to service the needs of their people.  Providing expertise, training and other technical support to Iraqi partners will be the key objective in the coming months.  Helping to build the capacity of national and local institutions is the best guarantee that the aid community will one day make themselves obsolete.  For the United Nations as a whole, it will help to achieve the common objective of a sovereign, democratic and peaceful Iraq.

Mr. Egeland appealed for donors not to forget the enormous uncovered needs in Africa and other disaster stricken areas.




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