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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
UK aid reaches Iraq's needy
Queue for aid in Nasiriyah
Many Iraqi children are suffering malnutrition
UK aid agencies hampered by safety concerns in Iraq have started distributing the first food supplies in the northern town of Mosul.

British aid agency Save the Children, which has 60 Kurdish staff based in northern Iraq, provided aid packages to 80 sick and wounded children at a hospital.

For weeks the patients had had nothing to eat except rice, salt and sugar.

Similar supplies are being provided in Kirkuk and Umm Qasr for the first time, as charities began to break through security and access barriers.

In southern Iraq, a team of workers from Christian Aid is preparing to deliver water and medical supplies to Basra, which until now has been regarded too dangerous for aid workers to enter.

Around 60 tonnes of aid has also left Britain bound of Iraq via Jordan. It is due to arrive in two and a half weeks' time.

Local organisations

A spokesman for Christian Aid, whose charity team includes workers from Unicef and the Norwegian Church, said: "The main aim of the work at this stage is to get an assessment of the area for security purposes.

"We can then look at what the needs are and establish a base from which to distribute food and aid to southern Iraq."

He said their work would be primarily through local NGOs which will use western funding and expertise to launch their own programmes.

We are aware that there is great malnutrition among young children, particularly because of recent sanctions
Lesley Farley
Feed the Children UK
The convoy, entering Iraq from Kuwait, is expected to deliver medical supplies including insulin, anaesthetics and oxygen, which are all in very short supply. They will also be bringing in gas cylinders for cooking.

Aid agencies hope this will mark the beginning of a long presence which will see basic health care and emergency support provided across Iraq.

Carolyne Culver, from Save the Children, said: "Many families which fled to the countryside as the war started are now beginning to receive blankets, clothes and fuel.

"At last they are getting their first help from the outside world."

British-based charity Feed the Children UK has sent three containers to Iraq, via Jordan, stocked with food, medical supplies, water purification kits and household items such as buckets and bowls.

Like other humanitarian aid agencies, the charity has been frustrated by not being able to get into Iraq until their safety can be guaranteed.

Feeding children

Director Lesley Farley said the charity had experience reacting to emergencies in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

"Iraq is very different because it is an emergency we have all known about," she told BBC News Online.

Basra
Christian Aid is preparing to deliver aid supplies to Basra on Thursday
"In terms of masses of displaced people, there is no evidence of that on an enormous scale as you would usually get.

"But we are aware that there is great malnutrition among young children, particularly because of recent sanctions.

"We know that there is a lot to deal with and so it is very frustrating not to be able to respond."

She said reports some agencies were now distributing aid was encouraging.

Feed the Children hopes to deliver the aid via a partner agency in Jordan once a safe passage into Iraq is opened.




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