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Last Updated: Monday, 14 April, 2003, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Aid worker diary: Waiting game
Fiona Callister
Fiona Callister, of Cafod, is among a host of aid workers poised on the borders of Iraq, awaiting the all-clear to organise relief efforts. Here she writes the first entry in her diary for BBC News Online.

14 April, Kuwait City:
My announcement that I am to be sent into Iraq has been met with one of two diametrically opposed reactions from family and friends.

With some, there is a long pause followed by a deep intake of breath, prompting a long speech from me that as I work for a humanitarian agency, I will not be entering areas that are considered unsafe by the military and United Nations.

The second response, which has mostly come from friends who are journalists, is a mild envy that I will see some of the stories behind the headlines.

RELIEF EFFORTS
An Iraqi girl waits for water
Fiona is a press officer for the Catholic aid agency, Cafod
She is part of the agency's emergency response team
She is currently based in Kuwait City, and will make forays into southern Iraq
Send your questions using the form below
My own feelings are mixed - guilt at worrying those closest to me, a significant chunk of fear of the unknown, but also a pride that I will be involved in work making a direct difference to people's lives.

I arrived in Kuwait on Saturday to join the emergency response team of Caritas Internationalis, the international network of Catholic aid agencies, of which the UK's Cafod is a member.

Caritas Iraq, our sister agency, is running emergency health clinics across the country. Our job is to support our Iraqi partners by ensuring that they have access to the resources they need.

As areas become safe, the team will move in and assess the needs of the local population so we can efficiently target supplies. For there is no point in sending out trucks full of food, only to find what the intended recipients really need is water purification tablets.

War zone

This will be my first visit into a country at war and I have no idea what I will see.

The British Army supplies water to Iraqi women
The military provide supplies until aid agencies get the go-ahead
My colleagues already in Kuwait have made several visits into southern Iraq. They assure me that while I cannot be complacent about the security situation, the Cafod team will only be moving into new areas once the UN has given the go-ahead.

The UN is relatively cautious - the OK was not given for aid agencies to move into Umm Qasr until 10 days after the port was secured.

So while I am 99.99% sure I won't need the gas mask and biological warfare suit in my luggage, I am not going to gamble on the unknown 0.01%.

It is obviously a great relief that in the few days since I got the nod to go out, the extent of the conflict has significantly scaled down. But there are pockets where the local population is armed with weapons left behind by Iraqi fighters and order has broken down.

As we will be driving 4x4s stocked with supplies, the risk of looting has to be taken as seriously as the conflict if we are to travel safely.


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