AMMAN, JORDAN -- A shipment of badly needed personal hygiene soap and laundry detergent for Iraqi children was expected to arrive in Baghdad today (March 31) as part of the U.S.-based All Our Children campaign, a multi-agency effort.
The truckload of hygiene supplies originated in Amman, Jordan, and crossed the border into Iraq this morning, reported Church World Service (CWS), a founding member of the campaign. CWS is the global ecumenical humanitarian agency of the National Council of Churches US (NCC), also an All Our Children founding member.
The 5.5 metric tons of soap- enough to support the hygiene needs of 14,688 Iraqi children for six months - and 5.8 metric tons of laundry detergent will be distributed by CARE Iraq to support UNICEFS child nutrition program in Iraq. .
Church World Service International Emergency Response Consultant in Amman Steve Weaver says the supplies will be used in UNICEF nutrition rehabilitation wards in 68 pediatric and district hospitals throughout southern and central Iraq, as access allows.
To help break the cycle of malnutrition and diarrhea, its important to ensure good hygiene practices, he explained. The death rate of children under age five in Iraq is already two and a half times greater than prior to the Gulf War.
The $1 million All Our Children Campaign is endorsed by former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter. Besides CWS and the NCC, the All Our Children campaign partners - all U.S.-based private voluntary organizations -- are Jubilee Partners, Lutheran World Relief, Mennonite Central Committee, Oxfam America, Sojourners and Stop Hunger Now.
Weaver said the soap shipment, the second shipment of the All Our Children campaign, had been delayed a couple of days awaiting determination of sufficient safety to make the road trip to Baghdad.
We also received confirmation this week, said CWS Emergency Response Program Director Rick Augsburger, that a first All Our Children shipment of $91,000 in medical supplies, which entered Iraq just prior to the wars outbreak, has been distributed to the Mansour Pediatric and Iskaan Pediatric Hospitals in Baghdad.
Weve gotten word from inside Baghdad that we are meeting simple yet critical needs with the soap and laundry detergent, said Augsburger. The children need hygiene, and the hospitals need cleaning supplies. Reports out of Baghdad are telling us that hospitals remain open, and so far CARE Iraq has been able to provide some locally purchased bleach.
Augsburger added, The need is great. When we visited Iraq in 1999, he recalled, the lack of medical equipment and supplies in hospitals then was appalling. Conditions certainly havent improved during this conflict.
Launched last year in response to sanctions-related suffering, especially shortages of medicine and medical supplies, before U.S. bombing of Iraq began, the All Our Children Campaign represents CWS decade-long, ongoing commitment to providing humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, said CWS Executive Director, the Rev. John L. McCullough.
Whatever happens in Iraq, we know that there will still be a critical need for medicine and health related items in Iraqi health service institutions, McCullough concluded, particularly to help improve curative health services for Iraqi children.
In addition to the All Our Children Campaign, CWS recently issued an appeal to raise $1.5 million designated for humanitarian response in Iraq, to be implemented by CWS on the ground partner in the region, the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC).
CWS has already airlifted 4,500 blankets, valued at $19,170, to MECC in Amman, Jordan.
Since 1991 CWS has provided more than $3.8 million in UN-sanctioned health and medical supplies and humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.
During the 1990s CWS spearheaded a campaign that Iraqi health administrators said put blankets on every hospital bed in the country.
CWS is also currently working with on the ground partners to support the needs of displaced persons in Iraq and refugees who may enter Jordan and Syria.
CWS opposed the U.S. pre-emptive strike on Iraq and will not accept U.S. government funding for the initial emergency phase of response to the current conflict. CWS also continues to be a vocal opponent of the U.S. embedding of humanitarian aid within the military.
56 year-old Church World Service works in partnership with local organizations in more than 80 countries to support sustainable self-help and development, meet emergency needs, aid refugees, and address the root causes of poverty and powerlessness.
John McCullough spent five days in Iraq at the end of January, as member of a humanitarian research mission to Baghdad, sponsored by the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR).
By Albert H. Lee