'Occupiers are failing desperate city' - Independent, UK
- 'Occupiers are failing desperate city'
By Jo Dillon, Deputy Political Editor
01 June 2003
Aid agencies have accused the British and United
States governments of failing to meet their legal
obligations to the people of Iraq.
Cafod, Christian Aid and Oxfam - three leading
humanitarian organisations working in post-conflict
Iraq - claim levels of security are insufficient to
allow aid workers to do the job needed.
They warn this puts Britain and America in breach of
their international obligations - and liable for
censure by the United Nations. It puts in jeopardy the
health and welfare of ordinary Iraqis and presents the
risk that frustration among the people will turn to
civil unrest if steps to improve their lot are not
Oxfam's policy adviser for Iraq, Jo Nickolls, has just
returned from a stint in Baghdad. "One of the most
striking things is the sense of complete uncertainty
and fear," she said.
"People don't know how things are going to progress
and at the same time are having to live a very tough
day-to-day existence without electricity and clean
Hospitals in the capital are still treating a majority
of people for complaints related to a polluted water
supply - cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea - and the
breakdown of law and order is making it difficult to
replace water systems and the electricity supply.
"Security is definitely the primary concern," Ms
Nickolls said. "The occupying power has a duty to
restore as far as possible law and order and safety.
They do seem to be failing to meet their obligations."
Her views were shared by fellow aid workers. Alistair
Dutton, emergencies officer at Cafod, who has just
returned from Basra, said: "I can't pretend that the
regime that has been removed was in any way good or
easy to work under.... But five or six weeks after the
war ended, the situation in the country is not
consistent with the Coalition forces' responsibilities
under international law. Failure to secure the country
or to make it safe is severely hampering the
Aside from looting, the ready availability of guns and
general lawlessness, the aid agencies complain that
unex- ploded bombs and mines have not yet been
People are afraid to leave their homes, they claim,
especially women and children - which means food and
medical aid is failing to reach those who are most
Dominic Nutt, emergencies officer for Christian Aid,
who has also been in Basra, said the war itself had
adversely affected the aid situation. "The basic
infrastructure was chronic and held together with glue
and string, but there were engineers there who were
able to keep the system going. When the war came, they
had better things to do."
While the war had had a "profound effect", he insisted
there was not yet a "humanitarian crisis". But the
agencies agree the situation is potentially explosive.
"Things could flip either way. It does require the
restoration of security and stability," said Ms
"If that doesn't happen you risk moving towards a
disastrous situation.... There is far more organised
crime, people are threatening to go on strike, people
are unhappy with the political situation.... There is
potential for more civil unrest."
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