USAID fact sheet: Contingency plans for humanitarian assistance to Iraq

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is fully prepared to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq - to save lives, alleviate suffering, and mitigate the impact of emergency situations. For the last several months, USAID, working in close coordination with the Department of State and other U.S. agencies, has planned for a possible humanitarian emergency by:

  • Assembling and training the largest-ever U.S. humanitarian rapid response team;

  • Pre-positioning stockpiles of emergency supplies and commodities; and

  • Communicating and coordinating with U.S. and international humanitarian organizations.

Rapid Response. USAID has recruited and trained the largest Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) in U.S. history, outside of an Urban Search and Rescue response. It will be headquartered in Kuwait City and have three mobile field offices. The DART is comprised of more than 60 humanitarian response experts from USAID; the Department of State's Bureau for Population, Migration, and Refugees; and the Department of Health and Human Service's Public Health Service. In addition to technical experts in areas such as health, food, water, and shelter, the DART has statutory grant making authority and includes administrative officers in logistics, transportation, and procurement, enabling the team to function as a turnkey response mechanism for assessment and funding in the field.

Commodities. USAID is pre-positioning emergency supplies for the Iraqi people, including materiel in warehouses throughout the region. In addition to pre-positioned and in-transit food, these supplies include wool blankets, rolls of plastic sheeting for emergency shelter, personal hygiene kits, World Health Organization Emergency Health Kits, and water jugs, bladders, containers, and treatment units.

Coordination. USAID's leadership has met for several months with a wide range of U.S.-based and international organizations planning for a humanitarian response in Iraq. In the region, the DART will continue to serve as a central point of contact, exchanging information, and coordinating humanitarian assistance among nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), U.N. agencies, international organizations (IOs), and the U.S. military. USAID has funded a significant contingency coordination effort for many NGOs preparing to assist in Iraq called the Joint NGO Emergency Preparedness Initiative (JNEPI), offering support to their assessment, logistics, stockpiling, and staffing needs.

Focusing on Areas of Greatest Need.

USAID's areas of expertise and responsibility for humanitarian assistance include:

  • Health and medicines
  • Shelter and supplies
  • Water and sanitation
  • Internally displaced persons
  • Food and nutrition
  • Humanitarian assistance infrastructure

Health and medicines. Through technical assessments, pre-positioned supplies, and the ability for immediate response, USAID will ensure the essential basic healthcare needs of the Iraqi people are met. Goals include:

  • Assessing local health infrastructure, including facilities, medicine availability, and immunization rates.

  • Preventing excess morbidity and mortality by focusing on preventative and primary healthcare. Expediting funding for UN agencies, IOs, and NGOs.

  • Assisting in the establishment of a national Health Information System (HIS) platform.

Water and sanitation. A successful emergency response requires adequate levels of potable water, and sanitary waste disposal and wastewater removal systems. Other goals include:

  • Overall damage assessment of water and sanitation facilities that reach all major populations centers.

  • Immediate assessment and response to provide adequate supplies of potable water.

  • Extensive coordination with, and expedited funding to, water and sanitation experts and organizations.

Food and nutrition. It is estimated that 60 percent of the Iraqi people currently rely on food aid, and that households have an average of one month of food stocks. USAID will:

  • Ensure the nutritional needs of the population are met through food availability and distribution.

  • Work with international organizations to maintain the countrywide ration system on an emergency basis and support internally displaced persons.

Shelter and supplies. The emergency response will include:

  • Meeting the emergency shelter needs of vulnerable populations through the provision of pre-positioned plastic sheeting and tents.

  • Expediting funding to the U.N. and NGOs to meet basic shelter needs for vulnerable populations.

Internally-displaced persons (IDPs). Meeting basic humanitarian needs and limiting sickness and death will be the primary focus for newly displaced populations. This will include:

  • Ensuring access to healthcare, clean water, nutrition programs, and shelter.

  • Expediting funding to the U.N., IOs, and NGOs to establish and manage displaced population camps.

  • Creating conditions that enable the return of IDPs to places of origin.

Humanitarian assistance infrastructure. Emergency interventions and high-impact projects will be used to facilitate humanitarian access and program implementation. This will include:

  • Monitoring the physical transportation infrastructure to ensure access to populations in need.

  • Contracting transportation to move and distribute supplies.

  • Communicating with vulnerable populations regarding the availability and location of assistance.

A Track Record of Success.

USAID DART teams have deployed across the globe in response to natural disasters and complex emergencies, bringing humanitarian assistance to such places as Angola, El Salvador, Turkey, Mozambique, Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, and Northern Iraq. Since 1990, USAID has responded with $2.2 billion to more than 870 disasters worldwide, including civil wars, acts of terrorism, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, cyclones, floods, droughts, fires, and disease outbreaks. Examples include:

Afghanistan. Even before the tragic events of September 11, 2001, USAID had a DART team deployed to Central Asia to assist with the emergency needs of the Afghan people suffering from 22 years of civil war and three years of drought. After Afghanistan was liberated from Taliban rule, the DART team worked with the Afghan Interim Authority to successfully avert a famine during the harsh winter.

Angola. In April 2002, immediately following the ceasefire agreement ending civil war in Angola, USAID experts in humanitarian assistance were on the ground assessing emergency needs, distributing relief commodities, and providing our partners with grant funding to support demobilization and a consolidation of the peace.

Armenia. In December 1988, the cities in northwestern Armenia were struck by a devastating earthquake, causing extensive loss of life and property and leaving more than half a million people homeless. USAID DART teams assessed the needs of the region and provided humanitarian and relief assistance at the epicenter of the disaster.

Central America. Before Hurricane Mitch tore through six countries in Central America in October 1998, leaving up to 10,000 dead and affecting more than 3.6 million people, an interagency DART was pre-positioned along the storm's forecasted path with relief commodities and disaster experts to lead the most significant response ever by the U.S. government to a natural disaster overseas. The emergency response was quickly followed by rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance to restore public services, agricultural production, and economic livelihoods.

India. When a severe earthquake struck western India in January 2001 killing more than 20,000 people and affecting nearly 16 million, USAID had a DART team of disaster specialists on the ground responding to emergency needs within 24 hours.

Planning Assumptions. USAID DART preparedness and delivery of humanitarian assistance requires adequate funding and security for both U.S. government staff and the personnel of nongovernmental organizations, international organizations, and civilian relief agencies.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for more than 40 years.

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