William Lambers: Surge of Humanitarian Aid Needed In Iraq

Roundup: Historians' Take

[William Lambers is an author and historian. His writings have been distributed by the History News Service and the History News Network. ]

The hunger and poverty afflicting millions of Iraqis harm any peace efforts in the war-torn nation. In July, the charity Oxfam International released a report citing eight million Iraqis in desperate need of help.

Iraqi children, in particular, are suffering. The Oxfam report showed that 28 percent of Iraqi children are malnourished, compared to 19 percent before the 2003 invasion. It is urgent that the international community increase humanitarian aid to Iraq.

Oxfam calls for the Iraqi government to expand its food and medicine distribution network to reach more of its citizens. Currently, Baghdad serves as the central warehouse location of these supplies for the whole country. But it is local authorities that should be given the ability to quality-check and distribute these basic necessities.

Spreading warehouses across Iraq would speed distribution and allow for a safer dispersal of food and medicine. Oxfam notes the recent burning of a warehouse as proof of why these supplies need to be spread out.

Such planning is critical in a humanitarian crisis. Think back to World War II in 1945 when British and American planes air dropped desperately needed food into the German-occupied section of the Netherlands. Food shortages for the Dutch were terrible during the last year of the war. The Allies actually negotiated with the German leadership in the Netherlands to arrange additional food drops and truck deliveries via the Canadian army. These food convoys utilized supplies stockpiled in a liberated section of the country. Amid the difficulties of a world war, food was able to be pre-positioned and delivered to the starving people of the Netherlands.

Today, the Iraqi government must ensure that food and medicine reach those in need in an efficient manner. The international community must also step up and increase funding for charities operating within Iraq. UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme should also receive additional funding for their programs aimed at helping Iraqi children.

Hunger and poverty in Iraq make the daunting task of building peace all the more difficult. Humanitarian aid must play a larger role in this peace process.

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