"We have worked and prayed for a peaceful resolution to this crisis, and we regret painfully that war was not averted," said Tucker. "Our prayers are with all people both in Iraq and the United States who will be affected by the war. We will renew our efforts to assist the Iraqi people in addressing this crisis and in rebuilding," said Tucker. "Now, however, the focus is on saving lives."
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 with food and medicine. CRS water initiatives have reached an additional 175,000 beneficiaries.
"At the same time as 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.
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 one million people potentially displaced within Iraq. Iraq is already home to nearly a million displaced citizens.
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 added. "Now, this conflict holds the potential to spread in the region if movements of people result as expected."
In addition to serving the vulnerable Iraqi population inside the country, CRS has also assisted Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. CRS has been working diligently with its local partners in Iraq and surrounding countries over the last few months to prepare for a humanitarian response in support of the Iraqi people.
Catholic Relief Service Responds
CRS has been steadfast in its support of vulnerable persons for decades and presently works through local partners in Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey to provide critical aid such as food and medicine to those in need.
CRS spent several months during the build-up to war working in collaboration with our local partners across the Middle East. Special importance within the CRS response strategy is linking our U.S. and overseas activities. This stems from our identity within the U.S. Catholic community and our overseas mission. Within an emergency situation such as this, the first goal is to save lives and reduce human suffering.
Relief activities such as providing food, medicine and shelter are being carried out in Iraq by CRS partners such as Caritas Iraq. While American organizations currently do not have direct access to the civilian population in Iraq, CRS has actively participated in this process through training in emergency preparedness, technical assistance, contingency planning, and financial and staffing assistance. This was in preparation for the emergency as well as to ensure uninterrupted implementation of CRS' ongoing feeding programs.
As soon as access can be assured, the next stage of preparation will involve an emergency response team traveling to Iraq in conjunction with European and Iraqi member organizations of Caritas Internationalis, a world-wide confederation of Catholic charitable organizations. CRS will continue to support the team's planning efforts and will contribute to the program design, development and direction of the Caritas Iraq response.
As the more immediate humanitarian crisis begins to pass, CRS will prepare for reconstruction with Caritas and other partners. While it is difficult to predict the outcome of the situation in Iraq, we anticipate the need for programs in the areas of health, food, shelter, education and livelihood. Throughout all of this, civil society must be strengthened so that the Iraqi community may take ownership of and contribute to the post-war situation.
How Can You Help?
Stay informed - Continue to log on to the CRS website for the latest updates on our work in Iraq.
Make a Donation - Support CRS' immediate and long-term rehabilitation work in Iraq.
Shortly after the end of a 48-hour period during which U.S. President George W. Bush asked Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to voluntarily leave his country, attacks began on strategic targets within Iraq. U.S. ground forces entered the country shortly thereafter signaling the official beginning of the U.S.-Iraq war.
The duration and scope of the war is unknown, but officials estimate that millions of Iraqi citizens could be displaced or become refugees as a result of the conflict. Millions more could suffer from disruptions in food pipelines within the country. CRS stands committed to serving those in need throughout this conflict.
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