Iraq

Aid and health experts call for Government to support humanitarian capacity to respond to weapons of mass destruction

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The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Merlin, the charity that provides healthcare for people in crises, have completed a study of the potential humanitarian response to the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In the detailed paper we call for the Government to support an independent group of NGOs to prepare for a response to the humanitarian disaster that such an attack will cause.
The paper entitled Hope for the best, prepare for the worst: how humanitarian organisations can organise to respond to weapons of mass destruction can be found at weblinks www.merlin.org.uk and www.lshtm.ac.uk/hpu/docs/wmd.pdf

This call for action comes just days after Tony Blair, in his speech to the Foreign Office conference, warned of the urgent need for a global response to the threat of WMD. The paper stresses the importance of NGOs collaborating amongst themselves, and ensuring that the humanitarian community is able to act independently in their response.

Geoff Prescott, CEO of Merlin, says: "NGOs need retain their neutrality and impartiality whilst developing the knowledge and capacity to respond to weapons of mass destruction". But as Egbert Sondorp,one of the paper's authors, comments: 'The reality is that expert knowledge in protection from and response to weapons of mass destruction currently lies almost solely with the military'.

The paper concludes that 'The humanitarian community needs to learn new skills, to confront the ethical, organisational and practical challenges that such a crisis will bring, to be bold and principled in working with new partners and to be supported to do so'.

Ends.

To interview any of the authors, please contact Lindsay Wright at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine's Press Office (020 7927 2073) or Imogen Ward at Merlin's Press Office (020 7378 4821/ Mobile 07092 382 421).

Authors:

Geoff Prescott, Linda Doull; Merlin
Egbert Sondorp, Hilary Bower: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Aroop Mozumder, Honorary Lecturer at the London School Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

NOTES TO MEDIA:

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a renowned research-led postgraduate medical school with a unique mission: to contribute to the improvement of health worldwide through the pursuit of excellence in research, postgraduate training, advanced training and consultancy in international public health and tropical medicine. The School's courses attract highly-motivated graduates and experienced professionals who go on to contribute to, and play prominent roles in their chosen careers of research or practice.

Merlin is a UK-based charity which provides healthcare for people in crisis. We provide medical relief to people suffering as a result of conflict, natural disaster or epidemic disease anywhere in the world, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation. Our work saves lives.

Since our foundation in 1993, we have worked in over 30 countries including Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, East Timor, Georgia, India, Kenya, Russia, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan and Chechnya.

Merlin is a registered charity (1016607) that relies on public support and we always ask that a donation line is mentioned when referring to our work. Donations can be made by visiting Merlin's website www.merlin.org.uk, telephoning 020 7378 4888 or by post to Merlin, Freepost LON 15423, London SE1 1BT.