From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Religious relief groups aid Iraqi families

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Fri, 10 Jan 2003 14:31:58 -0600

Jan. 10, 2003	News media contact: Linda Bloom7(212) 870-38037New York

NOTE: Photographs are available with this report.

By United Methodist News Service

Continuing a long-time commitment to relief work in Iraq, Church World
Service and several other religious organizations have set up a $1 million
campaign to improve health care for Iraqi children.

The "All My Children" campaign will use the money raised to purchase
antibiotics, anesthesia, IV solution kits and items related to providing
clean drinking water.

CWS, the relief arm of the National Council of Churches, is led by the Rev.
John McCullough, a United Methodist pastor. Along with the Mennonite Central
Committee, it has participated in humanitarian work in Iraq for the past
decade. CWS has provided more than $3 million in blankets, food, medical
supplies, school kits and health kits for families and children there since
1991. The Mennonites have shipped about $4.2 million worth of food and
material assistance during that period.

The new appeal "is probably a broader ecumenical effort than what we are
typically dealing with," said Rick Augsburger, CWS director of emergency
response, in a Jan. 8 interview. "It's a unique grouping of faith-based
efforts that are trying to work together to provide this support."

Other initial campaign partners are Stop Hunger Now, Sojourners and Jubilee

Augsburger, who will travel to Amman, Jordan, in late January to help
coordinate the response, said he expects the raising of campaign resources
and establishing the program to be a long-term process, especially since a
permit is being requested from the Office of Foreign Asset Control, a part of
the U.S. State Department.

Licensing is necessary because of the trade sanctions imposed on Iraq since
1990. The Rev. Ray Buchanan, a United Methodist pastor and founder of Stop
Hunger Now, and other members of a recent National Council of
Churches-sponsored delegation to Iraq witnessed some of the long-term effects
of those sanctions during visits to hospitals and schools and realized the
threats a war with the United States might hold.

Buchanan said he was heartened to learn from UNICEF staff based in Iraq that
malnutrition had leveled off because the government's food distribution
network, bolstered by the U.N.'s humanitarian  "oil for food" program, was
providing 2,200 calories a day to the citizens.

What he found frightening, he said, was that "70 to 80 percent of the Iraqi
population is totally, 100 percent, dependent on these food rations. In case
of war, the infrastructure of this food distribution would be destroyed
within the first few days or first week."

The health care situation is "abysmal," he added, because "dual use" rules
under the sanctions cover many items and have resulted in Iraq being unable
to obtain certain medicines, unable to repair equipment and even unable to
receive medical journals. Those rules prohibit supplying Iraq with items that
could have a military use.

"As far as I'm concerned, the sanctions are nothing more than sanctioned
torture," Buchanan said. "That is horrible when you say it, but when you have
to watch infants dying in incubators that just need parts ... if that's not
torture, I don't know what is."

The United Nations attributes the deaths of at least several hundred thousand
Iraqi children to the effects of the trade sanctions, the National Council of
Churches has noted.

Besides participating in the "All My Children" campaign, Stop Hunger Now will
work on emergency food relief for Iraqi families. While there, Buchanan set
up working relationships with the Islamic Relief Association, which he said
had a long, credible history as a humanitarian agency, and with the relief
arm of the Middle East Council of Churches. The Islamic group has warehouses
in Baghdad, and the Christian council is putting supplies together in Jordan,
where Iraqi refugees would be likely to come.

More information can be found at and on the Internet.

# # #

United Methodist News Service
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