"We have worked and prayed for a peaceful resolution to this crisis, and we regret painfully that war was not averted," said Chris Tucker, Catholic Relief Services Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. "We will renew our efforts to assist the Iraqi people in addressing the immediate needs of this crisis and in rebuilding."
Tucker added, "Our prayers are with all people most directly affected by this war, particularly the people of Iraq, those providing for their humanitarian needs, the men and women who risk their lives in service of our nation and their families and loved ones."
CRS is working with local Church organizations, particularly Caritas, in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey to enhance their capacity to respond to the immediate needs of Iraqis, including refugees.
"The needs in Iraq - particularly health - were acute even before the onset of war, with high rates of infant mortality and a dire shortage of medicine," Tucker said. "Now, this conflict holds the potential to spread in the region if movements of people result, as is expected."
In addition to concerns regarding the safety and basic needs of Iraqi civilians and the urgency of providing food, water and medicines to affected populations, an estimated 600,000 to 1.5 million Iraqis could flee the country because of the conflict, with as many as two million people potentially displaced within Iraq. Iraq is already home to nearly a million displaced citizens.
"While we support a humanitarian response, we must continue to work for peace, to lay the foundation for rebuilding what is damaged by the war and promoting the dignity of each Iraqi citizen," said Tucker.
CRS has provided substantial humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq throughout the country since the end of the Gulf War, targeting undernourished children; pregnant and lactating mothers; and the elderly, handicapped and very needy. In 2002, the program reached more than 30,000 vulnerable persons throughout Iraq. CRS also assisted in the rehabilitation of water systems in several areas, reaching 175,000 people.
In addition to serving the vulnerable Iraqi population inside the country, CRS has also assisted Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Catholic Relief Services is marking its 60th year as the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community. The agency provides assistance to people in more than 87 countries and territories on the basis of need, not race, creed or nationality.
To contribute to Catholic Relief Services efforts, send donations to:
Iraq Humanitarian Response
Catholic Relief Services
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090
For more information about Catholic Relief Services and our programs around the world, visit our website at www.catholicrelief.org
(Baltimore) Joe Carney
(Cairo) Kate Moynihan
002 010 183 0956 or 202 735 0602