Iraq: Church agencies call for humanitarian space

News and Press Release
Originally published
[The global alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT) International are responding to the emergency in Iraq through local member Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), UK-based Christian Aid (CA), Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Dutch-based Inter Church Organization for Development Cooperation/Kerkinactie (ICCO/KiA). All members have longstanding commitments to the people of the Middle East. CA and ICCO/KiA are working through local partners in Northern Iraq.]
Geneva, March 20, 2003 - ACT International calls on those engaged in military action in Iraq to ensure that as a matter of urgency, humanitarian agencies involved in relief efforts in the country have immediate and unconditional access to those in need following armed intervention. They must also be given the space to work and the right of such agencies to take independent positions and actions must be upheld.

"The plight of the Iraqi people weighs heavily on our hearts," says the director of the coordinating office of ACT International, Thor-Arne Prois. "Under the present circumstances, we affirm the long-standing humanitarian principle of unconditional access to people in need."

Prois said that the long-term cost of war would be extremely serious for the Iraqi people, as decades of war, international sanctions and the actions of its regime have crippled the country's infrastructure, leaving the people of Iraq extremely vulnerable. Extensive human suffering is an inevitable and predictable consequence of military action. The immediate human costs of military action are likely to include civilian casualties, possible displacement of people and the breakdown of state functions.

At least eight major relief centers and 44 smaller centers where people can seek refuge have been established in Iraq by MECC through local churches and mosques. The centers are concentrated around four cities: Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul and Basra. Relief efforts include providing shelter for internally displaced Iraqis and people who have or are fleeing to the neighboring countries of Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iran. Essential household and other non-food items are also being distributed.

All relief efforts of ACT International are being coordinated through the ACT regional coordination office for the Middle East, which is based in Amman, Jordan.

ACT International calls attention to the principles involved in humanitarian relief - that humanitarian impartiality is imperative and paramount. Humanitarian aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint. Humanitarian aid is given regardless of the race, creed or nationality of the recipients and without adverse distinction of any kind. Humanitarian aid priorities are calculated on the basis of need alone.

ACT International's members, working with and through local NGOs will continue to show solidarity and cooperation between Christians and Muslims and between the people of Iraq and "outsiders". As ACT International and its members' work is bound by the Code of Conduct of the International Red Cross, the Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief, all cooperative work will be conducted in an open manner, reflected in the awareness and information work done by ACT members internationally.

For further information, please contact:
ACT Director, Thor-Arne Prois (phone +41 22 791 6032 or mobile phone + 41 79 203 6055)
Communications Officer: Callie Long (phone +41 22 791 6039 or mobile phone +41 79 358 3171)

ACT is a world-wide network of churches and related agencies meeting human need through coordinated emergency response.

The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.
ACT Web Site address:

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit