Aid groups fear worsening of humanitarian crisis in Iraq

Posted at 03/28/08 8:05 PM

Agence France-Presse

GENEVA - The United Nations Children's Fund, the Red Cross and the International Organization for Migration expressed concern Friday about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Iraq after recent military operations.

"The population was not expecting this, they didn't build up any food stocks. There is also a problem of access to medical care.

"We've heard reports of medical transport and ambulances being targeted and attacked," said Red Cross spokeswoman Carla Haddad.

The humanitarian organization launched an appeal "for all parties involved in the conflict to protect civilians from any acts of violence and ensure their access to medical services".

UNICEF described access to drinking water as "particularly critical".

"We estimate that the population has water reserves for just two days," said UNICEF spokeswoman Veronique Taveau.

"The risk of seeing a rise in the number of children contracting diarrhea is very high," she added.

The IOM warned that the population, which has been "displaced on several occasions", was very vulnerable.

US-led coalition warplanes bombed Shiite militia positions in Basra overnight, directly entering the fray for the first time since the Iraqi army launched a crackdown in the southern city, a British military spokesman said on Friday.