SA reaches out to Iraq

A South African non-governmental organisation is to deliver a R7-million, 30-ton aid consignment to Iraq this week, the foreign affairs department said on Wednesday.

The Gift of the Givers Foundation has collected funds and food to help the people of Iraq in the aftermath of the United States and United Kingdom-led war against that country.

The consignment is to leave on a chartered flight from Johannesburg International Airport on Thursday, the department’s acting director general Abdul Minty told reporters in Pretoria.

It would include medical supplies, water purification tablets, and baby milk formula.

Some of the items would be purchased during a stop-over in Kuwait, where they could be obtained for less.

Also on the flight would be 10 reporters as well as officials from the department, Minty said.
The departmental staff would be tasked with determining the humanitarian needs of Iraq for the South African government to decide how best it could assist.

The team is to spend four days in Baghdad.

The United Nations Children’s Fund said last month the number of Iraqi children suffering from acute malnutrition had nearly doubled since the end of the war to topple Saddam Hussein’s government.

It said the country’s health care system had collapsed, and 40% of the water distribution network in Baghdad was damaged.

About 16-million Iraqis depend on food handouts from the United Nations.

To add to the problem, many hospitals were looted after the war, Minty said. The Gift of the Givers donation would also include items like disinfectants, medicines, bandages, plaster of Paris and surgical gloves to help counteract this.

The foundation is to deliver enough tablets to purify about 6-million litres of water.

Minty said humanitarian food distribution via a reconstituted Iraqi trade ministry started on June 1. Distribution channels were largely destroyed by the March war.

Twenty-seven-million Iraqis countrywide were due to receive food rations from more than 40 000 distribution agents. The World Food Programme had brought in 440 tons of food to Iraq.

“This is perhaps one of the largest logistics operations ever in terms of the size and duration of it,” Minty said.

The South African government, he added, would try to give assistance where needed most after a report back from the fact-finding team. - Sapa

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