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[casi] Aid Agencies Say Aid Used As Part Of Propoganda War

Web posted at: 3/29/2003 2:31:34
Source ::: REUTERS

LONDON: Relief agencies accused British and US forces yesterday of being
more concerned with food aid as a propaganda tool than feeding hungry

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Save the Children said chaotic
scenes shown on televisions on Wednesday, in which Iraqis scrambled for food
thrown from a truck at Safwan near the border with Kuwait, was an example of
how the provision of aid has become just another tactic in the U.S.-led war
against Iraq.

"What they are doing is not humanitarian aid but a 'hearts and mind'
operation and that is quite different," Save the Children's Director of
Emergencies Lewis Sida said.

He said humanitarian missions would seek to avoid such high profile
incidents, saying it illustrated that the military did not have the
competence to do aid work and said such operations did not serve the best
interests of the people most in need.

Wednesday's pictures of young men fighting it out with each other to grab
meagre supplies off the backs of trucks also raised concerns at Care
International UK over the plight of those not strong enough to do battle for

"Inevitably the people who need that assistance most are least able to
physically collect it," Care's emergencies advisor Adrian Denyer said.

"The most vulnerable and the weakest, the women and children, are a long way
from that truck and it will be the young men who grab the aid and will most
likely sell it rather than distribute it."

Another concern is the amount of food aid that can get through to a country
where 60 percent of the population had been relying on an oil-for-food
programme, which was suspended when the US-led war against Iraq began. The
first ship to bring humanitarian aid since the start of the US-led invasion
was British ship Sir Galahad, which docked at the port of Umm Qasr

But its cargo is a drop in the sea of aid which the oil-for-food programme
had provided. "To put it in context, we have been waiting for the Sir
Galahad for days with its 200 tons of food. Under the oil for food programme
16,000 tonnes a day were supplied, so you are looking at 80 Sir Galahads a
day just to restore the normal supply," Christian Aid spokesman John Davison

He said aid agencies and the military have had many discussions over several
years about how best to distribute aid. The agencies said their experience
has taught them that the distribution of food and supplies must be held at
secure warehouses if those most in need can hope to be fed.

Almost all aid agencies have said southern Iraq is still too dangerous for
civilian relief teams, but they are demanding the UN take control of
humanitarian work when the fighting ends.

They say they refuse to work alongside the military because being seen
alongside troops would put their own workers in danger and erode the
confidence of the Iraqi people in them.

On Wednesday, another convoy of Kuwait Red Crescent trucks heading for
Safwan was surrounded by Iraqis fighting for the food packages inside.

The troops accompanying the convoy ordered the aid released for safety
reasons. "The fact that it was chaotic and badly planned and off the back of
a truck illustrates that they (military) do not have the competence to do
that," Sida said. A British defence source said that the military should not
accept blame for Wednesday's chaos.

Copyright The Peninsula

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