UNICEF Iraq briefing note 21 Mar 2003

Statement made by Geoffrey Keele
AMMAN, 21 March 2003 - Good afternoon

UNICEF national staff in Baghdad are responding to a plea for assistance from four institutions housing between 600 to 800 disadvantaged children. This morning they loaded two trucks with basic foodstuffs including rice, flour, HPB and tinned meat.

The institutions, which house children who are orphaned or seperated from their parents and those with severe disabilities, are in the central area of the capital. The staff are aware of problems at two other institutions in Kerbala, but for the moment these cannot be reached. They say they will keep trying.

Most Iraqi children in institutions of this kind are malnourished as they only have access through the institutions to basic rations.

"When our staff contacted the institutions this morning it was clear that swift action was needed," said Carel de Rooy, UNICEF Iraq Representative, speaking from Amman, Jordan . "These places do not have adequate resources. We know of at least two other such institutions in Kerbala needing help, unfortunately we will not be able to get to them today," he added. "But our staff are going to keep trying, if safety allows. These places are often rather desperate. In the current very difficult circumstances we hope to be able to at least keep the children alive and keep an eye on their welfare."

In the 1991 conflict many children in such institutions died. UNICEF in Iraq purchased basic foodstuffs for institutions as part of emergency preparation work.

Altogether the agency has supplies for 4,000 children for up to a month.

For further information please contact us:

Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF Iraq: (962-6) 551-5921 ext. 126 (cell +962-79)692-6191
Anis Salem, UNICEF Amman: (+962-6) 553-9977
Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Geneva:, (+41-79) 909-5509
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF New York, (+1-212) 326-7261

For interviews in the region, write or call directly to the UNICEF NewsDesk in Amman: (962-79) 50422058,