Iraq

Agency assessment warns dire future for children in war

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World Vision staff returning from an assessment mission in Iraq warn of dire consequences for children in the event of war.
World Vision New Zealand executive director Helen Green said today that the agency's findings made extremely grim reading.

Mrs Green said World Vision staff were disturbed by the psychological impacts already being felt by children.

"Our staff found children as young as four vividly describing the actions and consequences of bombers flying overhead. Many said they feared they would not live to be adults, others said they suffered nightmares and headaches."

Mrs Green warned a protracted war would ultimately necessitate aid operations lasting several years possibly in an environment contaminated with chemical and biological weapons and unexploded ordnance.

"Although malnutrition rates in the country are currently stable, food and medical supplies are minimal and in a war situation would be exhausted in four to six weeks. Problems would be compounded by a lack of water and health care," she said.

Mrs Green drew attention to the fact that Iraq was already in a vulnerable position due to years of UN sanctions.

"We understand public services are very poor. Only 60 per cent of electricity requirements are being met and tons of raw sewage are being dumped into waterways everyday due to an inability to repair water treatment plants. Naturally this creates major environmental and health risks," she said.

Mrs Green said World Vision had found Iraqis outwardly loyal to the government though its people were subdued.

Meanwhile World Vision has established a liaison office in Amman, Jordan and is pre-positioning emergency supplies and mobile health clinics to assist Iraqi refugees who may flee to surrounding nations.

In the event of war World Vision anticipates relief operations amongst refugees fleeing to Syria, Jordan, Kuwait and Turkey. Ultimately it will consider aid operations in Iraq itself.