Press Releases

     

    DSG/SM/200
    IHA/785
    24 June 2003

    UN REQUESTING $259 MILLION FOR HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE
    TO IRAQ, DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS

    NEW YORK, 23 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is today’s statement by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette at the launch of the revised Humanitarian Appeal for Iraq:

      Thank you for joining us for the launch of the revised Humanitarian Appeal for Iraq, in which we are requesting an additional $259 million for the remainder of 2003 for United Nations humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq and emergency rehabilitation in the country.

    After my brief remarks, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Oshima, will outline the appeal and explain the financial requirements.  The Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Mr. Lopes da Silva, will give an overview of the situation on the ground, the operating environment, and our key priorities in the period ahead.  We also have with us today representatives of the various United Nations agencies involved in the appeal, who are available to answer questions.

    The document before you today is a revision of the Flash Appeal which we launched almost three months ago, in the early days of the conflict.  When the Flash Appeal was launched, we planned for the possibility of very serious humanitarian consequences.  Thankfully, many of the original planning assumptions did not materialize.  In particular, we did not see large-scale displacements inside Iraq or to neighbouring countries.

    Nevertheless, the conflict and its aftermath resulted in a wide range of urgent humanitarian needs.  Many of these needs we had anticipated, including the need to support the Public Distribution System that provides food rations to the entire population.  But many other requirements only emerged during and after the conflict.  In particular, the widespread looting and destruction of hundreds of public facilities has given rise to a range of humanitarian needs as well as constraining humanitarian activities.

    On the other hand, we are now in a position to support the orderly and dignified return and reintegration of refugees who had fled Iraq long before the recent conflict.  The same is true for internally displaced persons.

    The revised Appeal therefore presents all of these adjusted requirements and new priorities that have emerged over the past three months. 

     

    In retrospect, the Flash Appeal was an essential vehicle for early and generous funding.  About $870 million -- or 40 per cent of the requirements -- were contributed or pledged within three months.  Together with funds provided for preparedness measures, these resources have allowed the United Nations to mount a timely and robust response to the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people since the outset of the crisis.  I take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the donors that have contributed to this effort.

    As we stressed during the launch of the Flash Appeal, this donor funding was necessary to complement the other major source of supplies and funding for humanitarian assistance -- the “oil-for-food” programme.  Thanks to the timely adoption of Security Council resolution 1472 (2003) -- on the same day the Flash Appeal was issued -- agencies have had access to about $1.1 billion in emergency supplies and funds from the programme to date.

    The combination of donor contributions and resources from the oil-for-food programme has meant that, in total, almost $2 billion in resources has been available.  United Nations agencies have therefore been able to play a crucial role in averting a potential crisis.  Let me briefly highlight some of their achievements.

    In the food sector, the World Food Programme began cross-border shipments on 30 March.  Since then, it has dispatched more than 800,000 metric tonnes.  As a result of these shipments, the Ministry of Trade was able to restart the Public Distribution System at the start of this month.  Food rations are now again being distributed throughout Iraq.  It is difficult to overstate the importance of this accomplishment to the well-being of the Iraqi people and the stability of the overall situation.

    We have been able to provide important assistance in other sectors as well.  For example, millions of litres of fresh water are being tankered every day to hospitals and communities in Baghdad and the south.  United Nations agencies have delivered medical supplies to facilities throughout the country, also helping to restock those that have been looted.  We have repaired water, sewage and power facilities.  We are clearing mine fields and unexploded ordnance.  We are in the process of distributing school-in-the box kits to 400,000 primary school children before the end of the school year.  However, in all of these sectors, there is still much work to be done and more resources needed.

    Let me say a few words about how these activities are situated in the broader context in Iraq.

    The Coalition Provisional Authority, which is represented here today, bears the primary responsibility for the welfare of the Iraqi people, including the provision of public services.  The assistance activities carried out by United Nations agencies complement those of the Authority itself.  The sectoral strategies presented in the revised Appeal have been developed in consultation with the Authority, including senior Iraqi officials of relevant line ministries and municipal authorities, some of whom are with us here today.  As in other emergency situations, United Nations agencies will concentrate on areas where they have a clear comparative advantage, or which the Authority is unable to address in the short term.

     

    The United Nations is well aware that Iraq’s public authorities mostly have had both the capacity and the necessary expertise to provide essential services to the Iraqi population.  As a result of recent events, that capacity has been substantially reduced.  One of our core objectives -- which we share with the Authority -- is to support and re-establish this Iraqi capacity.  Virtually all of our assistance efforts are provided to and through Iraqi service providers at all levels, whether it is food rations, basic medicines or fresh water supplies.

    Once Iraqi institutions have regained their ability to care for the civilian population, including the most vulnerable among them, our humanitarian assistance efforts will come to an end.  We hope that most if not all of this transition process can take place before the end of this year, hand in hand with a steady increase in recovery and reconstruction efforts.

    In accordance with Security Council resolution 1483 (2003), the oil-for-food programme will be phased out and any remaining responsibilities transferred to the Authority by 21 November.  This will not be a simple task, given the broad responsibilities the United Nations has assumed for implementation in the three northern governorates, and the limited local capacity in many areas.  We are developing an action plan in consultation with the Authority to ensure a smooth transition that will minimize disruptions in the services being provided under the Programme.

    The Security Council has mandated the United Nations to assist in humanitarian relief, the reconstruction of Iraq, and the restoration and establishment of national and local institutions for representative governance.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General is in the process of shaping how the United Nations will discharge its mandate in the latter two areas.  But one thing is clear:  the humanitarian assistance the United Nations has provided has been tangible and important for the Iraqi people in these difficult months.  It has given the United Nations an excellent basis from which to build in order to fulfill the other parts of its mandate, and discharge its responsibilities towards the people of Iraq who have suffered so much over so many years.

    Before I hand over to my colleagues, let me stress that, while the needs in Iraq are large, humanitarian needs elsewhere are also large.  A number of donors have devoted supplemental resources to the Iraq crisis so as not to divert resources from other emergencies.  We welcome this and we appeal to all donors, in responding to this appeal, to do so in a way which does not compromise their support for other equally important emergencies.

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