While international media outlets continue to give full attention to the frightening consequences of the precarious security situation in Iraq that has worsened over the past months, humanitarian needs of the local civilian population that has been deeply affected by the protracted instability – seem to be receiving less attention. According to a Geneva-based emergency response organization, the fact that most of the relief agencies had to withdraw their staff for safety reasons is not encouraging ordinary Iraqis, dependant on humanitarian handouts, to keep up hope for a better future. Yet despite the violence, several Christian organizations have reportedly remained to continue their outreach.
Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, a global alliance of churches and relief agencies, reported on July 27 that ACT members in the Middle East and Iraq have maintained their active presence in war-torn nation even after the security situation further deteriorated in the beginning of this year. Taking security precautions, “they have managed, albeit slowly due to many obstacles, to reach out to the most vulnerable of the population.”
The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), one ACT local member, is currently undertaking an extended humanitarian assistance program under an ACT appeal. ACT reported that upon completion of the project MECC will be joining the 2004 ACT appeal for Iraq. In the meantime, MECC aims at continuing to respond to life-sustaining needs of the local communities in Iraq that have been ‘under fire’ for a long period of time and the refugee camps in the deserts of so-called ‘no man’s land’ at the border with Jordan. The focus remains on repair and rehabilitation of hospitals and schools, provision of supplementary food for the hospital patients and provision of monthly food and non-food rations to the refugees in Jordan.
Other ACT members currently undertaking projects include Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), and Diakonie Austria (DA). According to ACT, all projects will be completed in December of 2004 and January 2005, with the exception of the Diakonie Austria project, which is expected to be completed September 2004.
Since its creation in August 1995, ACT has been active in emergency response in more than 50 countries worldwide, working to save lives and support communities in times of emergencies. The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.