As a humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting poverty, CARE knows that conflict can exacerbate poverty, and war often impacts poor communities hardest. Now that the Iraq war has begun, CARE is intensifiying our efforts to save lives and reduce suffering, especially among women, the elderly and children. Guided by international humanitarian principles, we are committed to doing all we can to respond to the consequences of military action for people in need in Iraq.
CARE* has worked in Iraq since 1991 and we know those consequences could be severe. Even before the current conflict, some 40 percent of Iraqis relied on United Nations rations as their sole source of food. Now, as many as 3 million women and children could be in immediate need of food, according to UN estimates. Given Iraq's already dilapidated infrastructure, the collapse of water and sanitation systems is likely. This could provide fertile ground for disease outbreaks, especially among children.
CARE's dedicated staff will work to deliver vital assistance to children and other vulnerable groups as soon as conditions permit. We are prepared to deliver emergency food, maintain essential water systems and truck 500,000 litres of clean water to hospitals and health centers if necessary.
CARE is also ready to respond in the larger region should large numbers of people begin crossing borders to flee the conflict. We have analyzed multiple scenarios in detail -- from a minor to a major crisis -- and have made contingency plans around these scenarios.
Various action plans for emergency relief have been completed for Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and West Bank/Gaza. Standing at the ready in Amman, Jordan, is a skilled team of emergency experts in logistics, program development, security, communications, and policy development, among others. These experts' collective experience in humanitarian response is among the best in the world today.
CARE has moved commodities such as food, fuel and water and sanitation supplies to the region. But we depend on the generosity of CARE supporters to keep our lifesaving work going.
In France and Germany after World War II, in Sudan, Kosovo and Afghanistan more recently, CARE has nearly 60 years of experience aiding victims of war. During conflict, CARE works rapidly and efficiently with war-affected populations to ensure their access to basic food and clean water, to adequate shelter and essential materials such as soap, blankets and cooking pots. Working in partnership, we provide basic health care and help prevent or contain communicable diseases. Even after TV crews have gone home, we stay on to help families and villages rebuild livelihoods and local economies. In addition to physical rebuilding, we help survivors confront and resolve the fear and mistrust that are the psychological legacies of war, and forge stronger communities that can prevent or withstand future setbacks.
As the largest international humanitarian organization in Iraq, CARE has provided assistance to more than 7 million people -- about one-third of the nation's population -- mostly via large-scale, clean water systems and supplementary feeding to help children overcome malnutrition.
*CARE's programs in Iraq are managed by CARE Australia.