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Breakfast with Frost
BBC Breakfast with Frost interview with Dominic Nutt and Marilyn McHarg, Aid workers broadcast on 29 June, 2003

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

PETER SISSONS: Well that was Paul Bremer, the American official in charge of Iraq, speaking to me from the north of the country. And to discuss some of the points he made I'm joined by two people who've been involved on the ground in delivering aid and medical care to the Iraqis. Dominic Nutt of Christian Aid who returned from the south of the country recently, and Marilyn McHarg of Medicins sans Frontieres who flew into Britain this morning. Welcome to you both. Dominic first. It is your job to assess a situation on the ground for Christian Aid, do you recognise the situation as described by Paul Bremer?

DOMINIC NUTT: No. It is unmitigated nonsense in my view. He talks about some of the good news being lost. I tell you it is being lost in the sound of gunfire. Security is deteriorating day by day, it is worse now than it was a few weeks ago. The electricity and water situation is getting worse in many areas. People are getting frustrated. In Amara, an area where the Royal Military Police guys were murdered, was a very peaceful area, a very good area. But we were warned a month ago by local political leaders that they would start to target soldiers there. In an area that is very much anti-Saddam Hussein. This is a function of the frustration that is building because the lack of security and because of the lack of delivery of aid. PETER SISSONS: Marilyn, the hospitals, he said, 240 hospitals now operating, painted not the perfect picture but an improving picture of medical care. Is that your experience?

MARILYN McHARG: What we've been seeing is that although there are a lot of drugs in the country there are more at central levels and they're not necessarily getting to the farther reaching areas, that govern it sort of farther out. There are services that are going on and you can find a certain level of service, but for instance laboratories, a lot of them have been looted, they haven't been re-supplied. It's not possible to do diagnosis beyond the clinical diagnosis which results in a number of diseases either going unchecked or not treated properly. So I would say that there has been some movement toward the system reactivating but I would not say that they were fully functioning, not by any stretch of the imagination.

PETER SISSONS: Dominic, it may be chaotic but it's not a humanitarian crisis is it?

DOMINIC NUTT: No, but there's huge potential for one. I mean I can compare to experiences in say Afghanistan or Gujurat during an earthquake. It's not something where we have an acute problem where people are dropping like flies, to coin a phrase of a recent select committee on this. But what we have got is a political vacuum which is leading to insecurity, which means that redevelopment, reconstruction, aid delivery cannot happen effectively which means people therefore get more angry, more frustrated, which then feeds into these minority groups, the Fedayeen, the Ba'athists, criminals, anyone with any kind of political motivations can then ride the wave of this frustration. And we'll end up having a problem of a political vacuum that is filled with possibly more terrorism in the broader sense of that word.

PETER SISSONS: It's not inconceivable, is it, Marilyn, that the security situation could get out of hand. Paul Bremer seemed very confident that they can go out and kill these people and keep a grip on it.

MARILYN McHARG: I would disagree with that. I think that this situation is deteriorating and I think it has to be appreciated that the Iraqi population does not want to be occupied. They are positive about the idea that Saddam Hussein is no longer in place but otherwise, having an occupying power there is something that the general population does not agree with. And if you consider the number of incidences they are on the rise and the risk for organisations is that we get caught in being in the wrong place at the wrong time or that the situation deteriorates even more in us being targeted as foreigners.

PETER SISSONS: Dominic, oil has often been quoted as being the ultimate salvation for Iraq. As the oil comes on stream and the wealth generated by it gets into the country, surely that must be a reason for a lot of hope.

DOMINIC NUTT: No not really. You have to recall that Iraq was a country that was created in the 1920s by Britain. It was basically lumped together. We got at least three major tribes, for want of a better word, Shias, Sunnis and Kurds. Some areas are oil-rich, some aren't. If you start to try to create some sort of democracy in that country what's going to happen. Some people want their oil and they want to divide off from the rest of Iraq. It's going to actually very easily feed more chaos, more crisis, more war. It's not the salvation, you can't just base your whole salvation plan on some brown liquid.

PETER SISSONS: Does any of the UN in Iraq, Marilyn, was it a mistake to freeze them out at this stage?

MARILYN McHARG: Well, what I think is needed at least on the health level, is, it was encouraging to hear that there were plans, because we're not aware of them and right now as far as health is concerned and trying to implement services, it's so much felt that we're working in a vacuum, so if there are plans it would be very good to hear about them and to have them communicated clearly to all involved with health. And then with that of course the UN should have a role.


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