UN officials urge security improvements to reach needy Iraqis

Two senior UN officials on Friday called for an immediate cessation of violence in Iraq to ensure safe passage for relief personnel and supplies to millions deprived of food, clean water and other essential goods. ( dpa )

The remarks were made at a press conference by John Holmes, Under- Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, David Shearer.

"In any armed conflict, people need access to life-saving assistance and aid workers need safe access to deliver that assistance," Holmes said.

"Unfortunately, in Iraq today access is often hindered by ongoing hostilities and restrictions on freedom of movement," he added.

Holmes, who travelled to Amman to discuss the humanitarian situation in Iraq with the relevant officials, said he was unable to go to Iraq for security reasons.

He pointed out that humanitarian needs had risen significantly during the last two years.

"The effects of violence and tension, combined with the deterioration of basics services, have further contributed to the impoverishment of Iraqis who have suffered from decades of conflict, sanctions and oppression," Holmes said.

"We are scaling up the emergency response wherever conditions allow, and hope that the 265-million-dollar appeal launched in February will be fully funded by donors," he added.

Holmes said that as conditions in Basra continued to stabilize and freedom of movement expanded throughout the city, UN and NGOs would be "increasing emergency operations to reach thousands of families as well as several hospitals, with water, medical supplies and food baskets."

Shearer, who recently returned from a joint humanitarian assessment mission to the governorate of Basra with Iraqi officials, said that while the area no longer faced a humanitarian crisis, "some families still need support."

"The UN's priority now is to support Basra's local government in redoubling its own assistance efforts for the most vulnerable families," he added.

Shearer stressed that limited humanitarian access in Sadr City in Baghdad continued to pose serious problems for the delivery of aid to several of the city's poorest neighbourhoods.

Both UN officials underscored the need to work together with the governments of Iraq and neighbouring countries to respond quickly and appropriately to the urgent needs of the Iraqi people.

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