Who Will Care for the Victims of This War?; the Governments Waging War Are Woefully Unprepared for the Humanitarian Disaster Threatening to Engulf Iraq

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Byline: BIANCA JAGGER

IT is a tragedy that Prime Minister Tony Blair has turned his back on the international rule of law and has committed British troops to attack and invade Iraq. He has done this without a clear mandate from the United Nations Security Council authorising him to use force, without the support of the European Union and Nato, and clearly without the backing of the majority of the people of this country.

Although the war has now started, it is as important as ever to continue to make our voices heard.

In wartime, humanitarian and human rights issues cannot be ignored. On the contrary, they become paramount. The humanitarian planning, which we have repeatedly been assured was in place, is in fact, woefully inadequate, under-funded and deficient for the task. This war could result in a humanitarian catastrophe. We have been told by the Government that every component of the humanitarian relief effort has been prepared, is in place, and is ready. Sadly, this is not the case.

The British Government has been reluctant, until recently, to plan openly for the consequences of war. It did not want to be seen as regarding the invasion as inevitable. This has resulted in it withholding vital information from the humanitarian and relief organisations, which therefore could not draw up efficient plans. Another impediment is, quite simply, funding.

THE sums promised so far by the Government for aid and relief are i n s i g n i f i c a n t compared to the u1.7 billion that Chancellor Gordon Brown has made available for the military operation. Around 16 million people currently rely on a food rat ion from the Iraqi government under the foodforoil programme every month. That programme and its distribution mechanism will be destroyed, or at best, severely disrupted, by the war. Relief organisations will have to take over the food-distribution role. The United Nations World Food Programme needs $23.5 million to build up food stocks to feed the Iraqi people.

So far it has received just $5 million from the American government, and $1.6 million from the British Government.

The Department for International Development has promised an an extra u10 million for responding to the crisis caused by military action.

But it is understood that this money will be taken from the department's existing budget.

It is being taken from other deserving recipients, which is disgraceful.

But look at what is happening now in Iraq. The bombs are starting to fall.

Refugees are fleeing into the tent cities of Jordan: streams of humanity seeking escape from the danger of annihilation. …

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