Lack of Preparedness for Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq Will Risk Innocent Lives, Says International Rescue Committee; IRC Urges U.S. to Exempt Aid Groups from Sanctions
Aid organizations, governments and UN agencies are woefully unprepared for a humanitarian emergency in Iraq, the International Rescue Committee said today.
“We are extremely concerned,” said George Rupp, president of the IRC, one of the world’s largest refugee-aid organizations. “Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, the majority women and children, will face disease, hunger and exposure if they have to flee because of military action. We need to be ready to give them lifesaving help.”
Contributing to the lack of preparedness, the IRC said, are U.S. sanctions that bar U.S.-based aid organizations from setting foot in Iraq—even Kurdish controlled Northern Iraq—and neighboring Iran. And at present, few international aid organizations are operating in Iraq.
“The U.S. government should immediately exempt humanitarian agencies from its sanctions so they can begin making preparations in Iran and northern Iraq,” Rupp said.
“Without contingency planning and the pre-positioning of staff and supplies in the region, aid groups will not be able to respond quickly to a humanitarian emergency.”
Government secrecy and a lack of coordination among aid groups, government donors and the United Nations are also hampering aid preparations, Rupp said.
“Humanitarian planning cannot be effective if organizations that are experienced
in delivering relief and rehabilitation services are excluded from active participation,” Rupp said.
The IRC also urged the United Nations to appoint a coordinator to work with relief organizations, U.N. agencies and government donors such as the United States and the European Union and begin a dialogue about contingency planning.
“The U.N. typically acts as the civilian interface for humanitarian activities that involve aid groups, governments and the military,” Rupp said. “Without coordination, we have the potential for colossal confusion if an emergency occurs. The lives of innocent people are at stake.”
An in-depth IRC background paper, “Iraq: the Urgent Need for Humanitarian Coordination and Dialogue,” is available here.