Save the Children prepares for possible humanitarian crisis

WESTPORT, Conn., Feb. 6, 2003 -- Save the Children is preparing to respond to a humanitarian crisis in Iraq worsened by the ravages of a potential war. The organization has been active in the region for more than 30 years, and is committed to addressing the ongoing needs of children and their families in Iraq as well as those in need elsewhere in the region.
Iraqi children and families have been in a perilous situation for more than a decade because of international sanctions and a history of internal and external conflict. For example, 79 percent of the population is without access to safe water; 23 percent of children are chronically malnourished; approximately half of all babies are delivered without trained health personnel; and infant death rates have doubled in the last 12 years. If massive humanitarian assistance is not provided quickly in the event of war, many more innocent lives could be lost.

War will make a bad situation worse for these children. Almost half of the Iraqi population is under the age of 14 and children are particularly vulnerable to death, starvation, disease, displacement and trauma as a consequence of war.

Furthermore, it is estimated that millions of Iraqis - as many as 16 million of Iraq's 24 million people - could require immediate food aid. The conflict may also produce a refugee crisis if large numbers of Iraqis are driven into neighboring countries. The United Nations has projected that up to 1.5 Iraqi refugees may need immediate assistance.

Since 1991, Save the Children has worked in northern Iraq with Kurdish refugees, where 60 percent of the people live in poverty. Humanitarian assistance has included rebuilding schools, roads, bridges and water networks, and improving the quality of education and other institutions critical to children's well-being.

Save the Children has also joined with other humanitarian organizations in urging the U.S. government, Iraq and the international community to continue to seek diplomatic solutions to war, and to take concrete steps to protect innocent civilians if tensions escalate to war. Women and children have the right to be protected from military violence, exploitation, abuse and forced displacement from their homes. In addition, they deserve the basic necessities of life such as safety, water, food, and health care. These essential efforts - rooted in Save the Children's One World, One Wish campaign to protect women and children in war and conflict - should be central to any and all international action in Iraq.

More than half the Iraqi people are likely to require humanitarian assistance for their very survival if war occurs. Save the Children has more than 70 years of experience on the front lines of emergencies and is committed to doing all it can to protect the lives and well-being of innocent civilians.


Mike Kiernan
Director, Media Relations and Communications
(202) 293-4170

Colleen Barton
Senior Manager, Media Relations and Communications
(203) 221-4187
Cell phone: (203) 434-2255