British aid agencies united in opposition to war on Iraq

 The following open letter from ActionAid, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam GB and Save the Children was issued yesterday: As British aid agencies working either in Iraq or in the wider region, we believe military action could cause a humanitarian catastrophe. Across the country hundreds of thousands of people, especially children, are already in a weakened and highly vulnerable state. War is highly likely to further destroy the water, power, health and sanitation infrastructure and interrupt vital supplies of food, fuel and medicines. It could well lead to the cutting of food supplies to northern Iraq, which is not government-controlled, as well as to areas that are controlled by Baghdad. In certain scenarios the danger of large-scale civilian casualties is very great, as is the likelihood of significant movements of displaced people and refugees. Already Iraq has nearly three-quarters of a million internally displaced people. The possibility of a period of civil strife between Iraq's various ethnic and religious groups cannot be ruled out. If military action takes place, the international community then has a responsibility to help the Iraqi people with short-term and long-term security, protection, and material and financial support. Our experience in Afghanistan is not encouraging. There, despite numerous pledges, there still remains a yawning gap between rhetoric and reality. Signed by: Salil Shetty, CEO, ActionAid Julian Filochowski, Director, CAFOD Daleep Mukarji, Director, Christian Aid Barbara Stocking, Director, Oxfam GB Mike Aaronson, Director, Save the Children

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