Iraq

Mercy Corps President discusses humanitarian consequences of conflict in Iraq

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O'Neill says upwards of 10 million Iraqis could be affected

Mercy Corps President and Co-founder Dan O'Neill, appearing on KUOW radio in Seattle, Washington Wednesday, discussed the humanitarian consequences of a possible conflict in Iraq, as well as the preparations Mercy Corps and partner agencies are making in the region.

"Contingency planning is what we are doing at the moment," O'Neill said. "Of course we hope that there is not a war. We've urged that there be a diplomatic solution, but while we hope for peace we have to plan as if a war is going to happen."

O'Neill said that by all accounts a conflict in Iraq would likely lead to a significant humanitarian crisis.

"We believe without question that there will be an impact on 10 million Iraqis if war breaks out," he said. "At least half the population is unemployed. We know the economic situation in the country is a disaster. Two million would be internally displaced or refugees."

He added that the situation is especially difficult because most of the population in Iraq depends on the government for food rations under the United Nations' Food for Oil program. A conflict would likely disrupt this food supply leaving millions vulnerable.

O'Neill noted that Mercy Corps has been planning and coordinating with its staff and partners in the Gulf region for a number of months.

"We've actually put together a special team within the leadership of Mercy Corps to discuss and plan for a crisis. We have a great experience from working in areas of severe conflict - Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kosovo. We were sort of on the front lines of those conflicts and we have learned what the human consequences of conflict can be and how to prepare for them."