Iraqi Freedom Coalition Readies Humanitarian Aid

By Gunnery Sgt. Charles Portman, USMC, AFPS

CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar, March 23, 2003 — The U.S.-led coalition to disarm the Iraqi regime is poised to open massive channels of humanitarian assistance for the Iraqi people.

Millions of meals, medicines and other supplies for the Iraqi people are pre-positioned and ready for distribution, said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, CENTCOM deputy operations officer, at a press briefing here March 22.

"Our humanitarian work in Iraq is beginning," Brooks said. "We are already preparing to push (the rations) forward as they are required." He showed a video of a warehouse stocked full of humanitarian daily rations.

British Royal Marine Lt. Col. Jamie Marton said the strategic Umm Qasr port in southern Iraq, already secured by U.S. and British Marines, will ensure the continued flow of food and humanitarian supplies into Iraq.

"We are working with the international community to get humanitarian aid where it is needed most," Marton said.

Initially, officials said coalition forces will manage and operate the Umm Qasr port with Iraqi civil laborers. The coalition plans to move humanitarian aid with the U.S. Agency for International Development and other non- governmental agencies such as the U.N. World Food Program.

"WFP is gearing up for potentially the largest humanitarian operation in its history," said agency spokesperson Khaled Mansour at a March 21 press briefing in Amman, Jordan.

"With the majority of the Iraqi population set to run out of food in less than six weeks, the cost of covering their basic food needs could amount to over 1 billion U.S. dollars."

To date, WFP has received about $44 million from various donors, including $40 million from the United States. "This has allowed the agency to secure sufficient food to cover the needs of 2 million people for one month," Mansour said.

Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom, said one of his military objectives is "to end sanctions and to immediately deliver humanitarian support to the displaced, and to many needy Iraqi citizens."

(Gunnery Sgt. Charles Portman is assigned to U.S. Central Command.)