Despite withdrawal of most staff essential UN work in Iraq goes on

“We have sufficient staff in-country, national and international staff, to carry out everything that is an essential humanitarian task,” Kevin Kennedy told a news briefing in Baghdad. “Our number of international staff throughout all of Iraq varies from day to day.“We continue to carry out what we think are the most important activities that affect the daily life of Iraqis,” he added. At the height of UN operations this summer there were some 650 international staff in Iraq, but after the 19 August terrorist bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 22 people including mission chief Sergio Vieira de Mello, many were withdrawn. Last Friday Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered a further temporary reduction. Mr. Kennedy said the UN was involved with the Iraqi ministries in the whole food distribution system, “an enormous undertaking” comprising 500,000 tons per month, and was also continuing work in such areas such as water sanitation and the importation of over 600,000 tons of fertilizer for the planting season over the next two months.“As you see, our work continues,” he added. “Obviously, there are some things that we might want to do and that we have to put off or postpone or that we have to have carried out by staff outside the country. Much of that goes to activities like planning for reconstruction; they do not necessarily have to take place in Iraq.” Praising the work of local staff, Mr. Kennedy added: “We have a sizeable national staff component in Iraq that for years has done a fantastic job, often under very difficult conditions. Obviously, this is not a situation that we would want to continue for months and months. We evaluate the situation every day and we make adjustments every day to ensure we can get our job done.”

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