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After the Storm

The need in Iraq is immediate, CNEWA’s care continues

by Michael J.L. La Civita

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Months before war began with Iraq, an agency of the Holy See quietly prepared the church’s response to the inevitable humanitarian crisis there by planning a prudent but effective course of action, mobilizing resources and manpower.

CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission, has launched a two-part initiative, combining emergency relief (19 distribution centers in Iraq and five in Jordan) with programs of human development in Baghdad, Basra and Mosul.

Utilizing the local church. Ra’ed Bahou, Pontifical Mission and CNEWA’s Regional Director for Jordan and Iraq, said these initiatives will utilize the church’s network in Iraq: clergy, religious and the laity.

“Communication is difficult,” Mr. Bahou said on 9 April, “but three of the 19 planned emergency centers – all in the Mosul area – are already functioning as havens.

“Our partner in running these centers, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, a Chaldean Catholic community, is transforming its convents into centers where families receive basic food supplies and potable water.”

Although the sisters attempted to store a six-month supply of medicines and basic foodstuffs – oil, rice, macaroni, sugar and tea – Mr. Bahou stated that three weeks into the war, the sisters had only managed to secure emergency supplies for 40 days.

Despite a wealth of natural resources, including oil and fertile land, most of Iraq’s people are poor; 70 percent of this nation of some 24 million people is dependent on monthly food rations for survival. War and postwar upheaval have only exacerbated the humanitarian crisis there.

“In addition to distributing emergency relief supplies, we plan to provide education, job training and job creation programs and health care initiatives,” Mr. Bahou said. “Pontifical Mission’s plans are part of our ongoing commitment to foster human development, to find creative ways to support the Iraqi people.”

Since 1991, the Mission has coordinated more than $4 million in aid – primarily for health care assistance – from throughout the Catholic world to the people of Iraq. Significant partners include CNEWA, Church in Need, Kinderhilfe Bethlehem, Misereor, Missio and Kindermissionswerk.

Long-term commitment. To help fulfill an immediate need, Pontifical Mission is bolstering its support of two Catholic hospitals in Baghdad – Al Hayat, a 27-bed mother and child facility operated by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Raphael’s, an 86-bed general hospital administered by another community of Dominican Sisters. In addition to providing these institutions with supplies and medicines, Mr. Bahou said the Pontifical Mission plans to open free clinics at both hospitals.

Modeled after the Mission’s clinic at the Italian Hospital in the Jordanian capital of Amman, these clinics will provide the poor with access to quality health care.

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Tags: Iraq War Health Care Relief Dominican Sisters