Iraq: Aid agency's concern over military control of relief efforts

News and Press Release
Originally published
London, 6th March 2003 (Merlin): - With war in Iraq looking increasingly likely, Merlin the UK charity committed to providing healthcare in crises, has reacted strongly to recent reports that all relief efforts will be co-ordinated by the new Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance run by the Pentagon and headed by retired Lieutenant-General Jay Garner.
In a statement issued today, Geoff Prescott CEO of Merlin said: "If humanitarian aid is mixed into a military or political brew our experience in Kosovo, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere has shown it may be unpalatable to the beneficiaries." Supporting the position of Clare Short, Prescott adds, "Aid should go to those most in need and must be seen to be neutral to gain acceptance. We believe that this military controlled office may seriously jeopardise the neutrality and security of those agencies engaged in relief efforts."

Merlin also believes that all sides should be aware of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGO Code of Conduct in Disaster Relief which states explicitly that NGOs shall endeavour not to act as instruments of government foreign policy and will respect the structures of countries they are working in.

Merlin is urging the British government and their allies to do all they can to ensure that in the aftermath of war assistance to Iraq is co-ordinated and distributed by civilian, neutral and impartial means.

For further information, please contact:

Imogen Ward at Merlin's Press Office 020 7378 4821/mobile 07092 382 421