The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) last week unveiled a new humanitarian program to provide aid and assistance to pregnant Iraqi women. Anticipating the worsening of already rising maternal and infant mortality rates, the agency intends to distribute ambulances, ultrasound scanners, mobile obstetric care surgery units, medication, supplies, contraceptives, and other items “needed for safe motherhood,” according to the UNFPA press release. UNFPA appealed to international donors for an additional $5 million to help sustain the program over the next six months.
Meanwhile, officials and aid groups continue to warn that war in Iraq is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. In the southern city of Basra, where the resident population exceeds one million, resistance by Iraqi troops have pushed British forces to declare “military targets” in the area, causing a blockage of humanitarian aid, reported the Associated Press.
Children comprise half of Iraq’s 24.5 million people. According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Iraq suffers from one of the highest child-mortality rates in the world, with one child in eight dying before the age of five, reported Salon. UN food programs feed 60 percent of the population. Joel Charny, vice president for policy at Refugees International, chastised the US government for prioritizing infrastructure post-war reconstruction over immediate food aid, telling Salon, “By all means, let’s think about having money to rebuild bridges and roads and electrical plants… but there’s a glaring contrast between preparations for private firms that do that kind of large-scale work and the lack of funding for the UN and NGOs to provide aid to Iraqis. The administration is getting ahead of itself. The survival of the Iraqi population is not yet restored.”