Baghdad (Fides Service) – Caritas is increasing efforts to provide assistance to the people of Iraq, exhausted by years of war and sanctions. One of the new programmes is an assistance project for 285 Palestinian refugee families at Nadi Haifa camp near Baghdad. In Iraq there are at least 80,000 Palestinian refugees whose living conditions were quite good under the previous regime. In collaboration with the Palestinian Red Crescent, the UN High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, Caritas supplies medicine for the camp’s children and a contribution to improve the supply of clean water.
The Iraqi minister of health has entrusted 7 health care centres to Caritas to re-organise. These include an old people’s Home at Al-Ubaydi, with 140 inmates, and a psychiatric hospital at Al Rashad which was sacked and half its patients have disappeared. The hospital should care for 500 patients.
At the level of food assistance, Caritas Iraq has delivered 30 tons of food supplies for distribution to the poor, to the Christian Assistance Committee set up recently by Catholics of different Rites. Another serious problem in post war Iraq is assisting children. To help in this field many Caritas centres have started children’s welfare programmes again. The programme offers the services of a children’s doctor, a nurse and a few social workers, as well as distributing milk and fresh vegetables to improve the children’s diet.
Caritas is also helping the Red Crescent re-organise two children’s centres in Kerbala and Al Diwaniya which were sacked.
Another humanitarian organisation which is active in Iraq is the UNHCR working to assist the repatriation of Iraqi refugees. These include 64 Kurdish families (479 people) who have returned to their land in the villages of Bengawa and Talamater south of the Erbil province. The families have been supplied with tents, cooking utensils, water cans, camping lamps and blankets. The villagers were forced to abandon their homes in the 1980s under Saddam Hussein’s forced transfer policy which moved Arabs from other areas of Iraq to the lands of the Kurds. LM (Fides Service 25/6/2003 EM lines 33 Words: 400)