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Da Silva: Ability to mount humanitarian response is required for Iraq
2003-03-18 19:47:55

Larnaca, Mar 18 (CNA) ? Ramiro da Silva, UN coordinator for humanitarian assistance in Iraq, said tonight that the resources and the ability to mount a humanitarian response is what is required now for Iraq.

Speaking on arrival from Baghdad, da Silva who will coordinate post conflict emergency assistance to Iraq said he "expects an aggravation of the situation of malnutrition and of course you have all the conditions for epidemics" for the ten million people in Iraq, if the war starts.|

He said "the problem in Iraq is we have a population that has been weakened by 13 years of very intrusive and harsh sanctions which debilitated the population in general in terms of poverty."

"Obviously a conflict is a major disruption", he said and quoted UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan that "any conflict is a human catastrophe".

"What we all want is to have peace", said da Silva, adding "peace is what we want for the population in Iraq" and "we are extremely worried that we have not achieved that".

Referring to the consequences of the conflict, da Silva said "you are going to have potentially massive needs, massive displacement of population, increase of epidemics, starvation, if we are not ready enough to mount a response."

He said "the food programme was suspended the moment the SG took the decision to withdraw the international staff from Iraq. From that moment onwards, we have no more the ability to inspect exports of oil, to authenticate the imports of the commodities that come" as part of the programme oil for food and "obviously we are not on the ground to observe the distribution of those commodities".

However, he said there are 3,500 professionals, Iraqis nationals who work with the programme and there are non-governmental organisations that are on the ground, "so we have means of continuing supporting the Iraqi population".

"What we need now is the resources and the ability to mount a response", he stressed.

Da Silva arrived on the third plane out of Baghdad following UN orders to leave the country as war is looming.

CNA/ES/EC/MM/2003
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY

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