Churches increase Iraqi humanitarian action as conflict continues

By staff writers
5 Aug 2007

In response to massive human suffering in Iraq, the US ecumenical relief and development agency Church World Service is mounting a two-pronged effort aimed at providing essential services for vulnerable children in orphanages and helping equip Iraqi organizations to operate social, economic and health service projects.

On 2 August 2007, the New York-based organization issued an appeal asking concerned people to send donations to help fund the humanitarian response to the suffering in Iraq.

Steve Weaver, Middle East regional coordinator for CWS, says: "Survival has become very difficult for Iraqis. In many parts of the country fear and violence are a daily reality. Many are now refugees in other countries where they have little money, few job options, and limited access to schools or hospitals."

The humanitarian crisis has become more acute with the escalating sectarian conflict in the Middle Eastern country, now in the fourth year of an American led occupation.

Fighting between rival militias, ongoing military operations, and targeted violence against civilians has forced more than 4 million Iraqis out of their homes and villages, with many of them crossing borders in search of haven in neighboring countries like Syria and Jordan

Iraqi children living in orphanages are a main focus for CWS. As part of a programme aimed at ultimately moving these vulnerable young people out of institutions and back into family settings, CWS and a partner agency in Iraq will provide food baskets and locally purchased school kits and hygiene kits to 582 youngsters in 21 institutions

Donations to the appeal also will help CWS send three 40-foot containers of CWS hygiene and school kits, blankets, and medicine boxes supplied by Interchurch Medical Assistance. A Church World Service local partner agency in Iraq will distribute CWS-provided emergency medical supplies to hospitals in conflict areas.

With the breakdown of government services, social welfare agencies are the main support system for people inside Iraq and for those who have fled the fighting. To help agencies inside Iraq increase their ability to provide services for needy families, Church World Service with its partner agency the Italian Consortium of Solidarity, is training staff at six of the country's humanitarian agencies.

When the agencies complete their training in project monitoring and project evaluation they in turn will identify six others and help them increase their capacity to serve the population.

CWS also is supporting the efforts of its partner churches through Action by Churches Together, a global alliance of churches and agencies working to support communities in emergencies.

Those efforts include International Orthodox Christian Charities work with displaced or needy Iraqi families inside and outside of the country; Norwegian Church Aids food, water, shelter and counseling projects; and the Middle East Council of Churches distribution of food and medical supplies in Iraq, Jordan and Syria.

Church World Service is the relief agency of 35 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican denominations in the United States. The agency has supported humanitarian projects in Iraq since 2003 when it began work with the All our Children campaign to offer Iraqi youth projects aimed at improving the health and well being of a population in turmoil.

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