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U.N. preparing to aid Iraqis

Camp
Red Crescent workers set up a refugee camp in Jordan about 50 km from the Iraqi border.

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday he is determined to restore Iraq's oil-for-food program "as soon as possible."

Annan went on to say that although it is "the occupying power's responsibility" to provide for the welfare of the Iraqis, the United Nations will do whatever it can to help.

It is estimated 60 percent of Iraqis are dependent on the program for food, in which some oil sales have been exempted from sanctions placed on Iraq so that the proceeds can be used to buy humanitarian supplies.

"Urgent measures" should be taken in Basra, where water and electricity supplies have been cut off for more than two days, he said. The American Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross are working on restoring the water, he added.

Prime Minister Tony Blair told the British Parliament Monday that efforts were under way to clear paths for delivering humanitarian aid, especially to the city of Basra. (Full story)

He added that the U.N.'s work in Iraq "will be an important part of bringing the international community back together" after divisive splits about whether to go to war against Iraq.

ICRC spokesman Florian Westphal said on Sunday: "Sixty percent of the local population are still without access to a regular water supply. This could develop into a humanitarian crisis. We are really, really going to try to gain access to the supply and do anything we can to repair it."

The American Red Cross has also positioned stocks in both Turkey and Bulgaria for use by the Red Crescent Societies and the ICRC as needed. The supplies include 34,200 blankets, 14,500 kitchen sets, 30,000 water containers, 30,000 hygiene parcels, 500 tents and more than 2,000 tarps.

Refugees
Sudanese family members arrive at a refugee camp near Al-Ruweishid in eastern Jordan after fleeing Iraq.

U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks announced Monday that humanitarian ships are loaded and will begin to deliver needed shipments of food, water and supplies to the Gulf region in the next few days.

In an earlier briefing, Franks said one of his military objectives was "to immediately deliver humanitarian support to the displaced and to many needy Iraqi citizens."

British Royal Marine Lt. Col. Jamie Marton said the strategic Umm Qasr port in Southern Iraq was opened early in the operation to ensure the continued flow of humanitarian supplies.

According to U.S. Central Command, coalition forces plan to move aid with the assistance of the U.S. Agency for International Development and other non-governmental agencies like the World Food Program.

WFP spokesperson Khaled Mansour said the cost of covering the basic food needs of the Iraqis could amount to over $1 billion. To date, WFP has received about $44 million from the United States, which Mansour said should cover the needs of 2 million people for one month.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said it is continuing to prepare camp sites, transport relief supplies to the region and monitor possible border crossing points around Iraq. It said emergency teams are on standby across the world for deployment.

No large-scale influx of refugees has been seen so far into any of the neighboring countries, and border areas are reportedly calm, according to a UNCHR press release.

Aid
Swiss Red Cross workers load boxes of humanitarian relief goods bound for northern Iraq.

Fourteen Iraqi refugees arrived in Syria Sunday at the Al Yarubiyah crossing point, northwest of Mosul. These are the first refugee arrivals from Iraq since fighting began last week. They have been taken to UNHCR's camp at El Hol.

Earlier, UNHCR's representative in Syria reached an agreement with the governor of Hasakah Province on the establishment of a refugee camp at the Al Yarubiyah border crossing, and for a second facility at Al Tanf. Work on these newly approved camps will begin this week.

According to Monday's UNHCR press release, the situation at Jordan's Al Karama border remains quiet, with no refugee arrivals.

The situation also remains calm along the Iraq-Iran border crossings, with no reports of refugee movements. Ten refugee camps are planned in western Iran.

As of Monday, UNHCR had received $25 million of the $60 million it is seeking for its initial contingency preparations for up to 600,000 people for one month.

The World Health Organization reports it has 15 emergency health kits already in place in Baghdad and others are stored in the three northern governorates. WHO and its partners have also pre-positioned medicines and other health supplies in neighboring countries to be used inside or outside Iraq when need arises.


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