Red Crescent continues work in Iraq under difficult circumstances

At a time when very few aid agencies are able to operate within Iraq, the United Arab Emirates’ Red Crescent Association (RC) says the risks are high but that they will continue to assist the needy with a small team of workers inside the country.

“The situation is extremely dangerous and it is a challenge, but we are able to operate due to the trust and reputation we have managed to build for ourselves there,” UAE Red Crescent Secretary General, Sana’a Darwish Al-Kitby, told IRIN from its Abu Dhabi headquarters.

As well as delivery of much needed relief items from the UAE, an office has also been established in Baghdad, with some four staff members supported by the UAE embassy in the Iraqi capital.

“We are assisting in all parts of the country when requested by the government. We do not discriminate against the different ethnic groups, we will assist anyone in need,” she stressed.

Al-Kitby herself visited Iraq once in October 2003 and described the situation as very demanding. “The purpose of my visit was to get first hand knowledge of the humanitarian situation in Iraq and to visit the ongoing UAE Red Crescent operations in the country.”

“The UAE Red Crescent needs to continue its cooperation with the Iraqi people,” the dynamic secretary general added.

So far, some US $35 million has been spent on Iraq since the RC entered to assist prior to the April 2003 war.

Supplies such as medicine, vaccines, blankets, tents and food items such as dates, rice and sugar, as well as first aid kits have been delivered. In addition, generators for hospitals and water treatment plants across the country have also been provided.

Al-Kitby pointed out that the association was now assisting in more than 100 countries world-wide, with an annual budget of 10 million AED (US $ 2.7 million).

Some 70 injured Iraqis have been brought into the UAE for urgent medical treatment since the 2003 war started due to the lack of skilled doctors and medical facilities in Iraq. Another 300 Iraqis in the UAE have been assisted with shelter and voluntary repatriation to their homeland.

“We coordinated with the ICRC and made sure that we were in Iraq in time for the crisis. This was important to us as they [Iraq] are also a neighbour of ours,” she added.

Speaking about ongoing collaboration with other aid agencies, she said: “The UAE Red Crescent is still exploring other means and partners to work with, to be able to deliver its humanitarian mandate not only in Iraq, but all over the world without regard to race, religion or nationality.”