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Aiding a War Zone

 Aiding a War ZoneWhileaid organizations cited humanitarian motives working in post-warIraq, a new report indicates that politics may have a role aswell.Boston.

Boston [04.12.04] A year after the U.S. invaded Iraq, humanitarian organizations continue to question their role in the region. Although many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) deployed their resources in response to local needs across Iraq, a new study by a Tufts expert says politics may have played a role in prompting groups to get involved.

"The driving consideration about the allocation of resources to Iraq was not a first-class humanitarian crisis but rather a high-profile imperative," Larry Minear, director of the Humanitarianism and War Project at Tufts, told Reuters.

Surveying more than 200 people in the humanitarian field who were involved in Iraqi outreach, Minear and his colleagues at Tufts' Feinstein International Famine Center - based at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy - came to some surprising conclusions.

"There were no serious food shortages or specific health crises," Minear told Reuters.

The findings, say Minear, don't necessarily mean groups didn't make important contributions to post-war Iraq.

"This isn't to say that there weren't pockets of vulnerability and there weren't humanitarian needs," Minear told Reuters. "But in terms of orders of magnitude there were more serious crises elsewhere."

The report comes in the wake of growing questions about risks of sending staff to a volatile region like Iraq.

"Minear said the Tufts study had documented at least 45 deaths of civilians in Iraq, and 58 wounded, among expatriate and national staff working for private contractors," reported Reuters.

According to Minear, "They travel with armed guards in four-wheel-drive vehicles, maintain compounds and work out of Coalition Provisional Authority (the U.N.-designated temporary Iraqi government) premises."

Citing security concerns, most of the largest NGOs have withdrawn from Iraq.

Minear says the aftermath of Iraq has prompted an important discovery amongst NGOs about their roles in these types of situations.

"While fundamental issues are under discussion, structural changes have yet to be reflected in the humanitarian sector," Minear told Reuters. "Nevertheless, there is potential for significant change by virtue of the issues being on the table."


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