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Caritas says Iraqi children the most vulnerable

The initial bombardment of Iraq with thousands of "precision-guided" bombs and missiles will have devastating consequences for Iraqi civilians, especially children, according to Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Duncan MacLaren.

He said: "The world is on the brink of a major humanitarian catastrophe if war is declared against Iraq within the next few days."

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 154 Catholic relief, development and social service organisations working in 198 countries and territories, including all the Security Council country members and Iraq, where the organisation is indigenous.

"The victims will be in the first instance the most vulnerable, especially the children of Iraq," he said.

The statement from Caritas' Rome head office said nobody knows exactly how many innocent civilians would be killed in such an attack.

"Humanitarian organisations, including Caritas Iraq, talk about tens of thousands. However, it is not only a question of numbers. The damage done by weapons of war is to the flesh, muscle, bone, and psyches of real people, some of them children.

The statement said the Iraqi people are "already in sorrowful shape", with between 14 and 16 million persons (two thirds of the population) entirely dependent on food rations. This situation has been caused by the economic embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council twelve years ago.

"In the event of a conflict, and the inevitable destruction of communication and transport infrastructure, the whole system would be paralysed within a few hours. Likewise, water and sewerage systems would quickly deteriorate due to a lack of electricity, and polluted water could cause major outbreaks of disease and lead to epidemics. In addition, Caritas and United Nations agencies estimate a war would create hundreds of thousands of refugees."

Caritas Internationalis

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Caritas Internationalis | Iraq: Caritas responds

19 Mar 2003