More Than 200,000 Iraqi Children Benefit From Ngo Consortium, "All Our Children"

While Iraq continues its efforts toward creating a new constitution and eventually a new way of life, the Iraqi people still experience the effects of earlier wars and years of United Nations-imposed sanctions.  

But thanks to the eight-group consortium known as All Our Children (AOC), small but very meaningful improvements in Iraq have been made during the last 2 ½ years, co-founding member Church World Service said today as it issued a report, "Campaign for Children's Health Initiatives in Iraq," that details the work of AOC from May 2003 through the completion of its work earlier this year.

While Iraq continues its efforts toward creating a new constitution and eventually a new way of life, the Iraqi people still experience the effects of earlier wars and years of United Nations-imposed sanctions.  

But thanks to the eight-group consortium known as All Our Children (AOC), small but very meaningful improvements in Iraq have been made during the last 2 ½ years, co-founding member Church World Service said today as it issued a report, "Campaign for Children's Health Initiatives in Iraq," that details the work of AOC from May 2003 through the completion of its work earlier this year.

The program to primarily address the most urgent health needs of children in Iraq had a clear end-date - 18 months, though some projects had to be postponed for short periods because of insecurity in Iraq, and as a result the program was completed in March of this year.

"Our goal was reached and we're now celebrating that accomplishment, both in terms of meeting our goal financial amount needed, but also in addressing some of the most urgent initial health needs of children immediately following the US led actions there," said CWS Executive Director John McCullough, noting that AOC sent the first post-war humanitarian convoy into Iraq, delivering blankets, wheelchairs, and bedding, at first, and following up with deliveries of fresh food.

In all, some 200,000 Iraqi children benefited from the All Our Children campaign, and an additional 60,000 are expected to benefit annually in coming years from rehabilitation and support to children's institutions.  More than 50,000 adults were also direct beneficiaries from AOC efforts.

CWS continues to fund certain projects in Iraq -- including support for a pediatric cancer ward; a hygiene awareness campaign; and support for a children's theater -- because the global humanitarian agency had always intended that after a period of relief/immediate recovery intervention it would transition into much more concrete
rehabilitation/transitional development work that support local NGOs in Iraq.

"We are now in the process of initiating the 'next phase' of our work in Iraq which includes helping six local NGOs to more fully develop their organizational and staff skill capacity to implement development program themselves in their respective areas," McCullough said.

A total of $910,683 in cash donations were raised for 19 AOC projects - CWS provided $454,894, the largest amount raised by the AOC partners. $1,341,616 in in-kind donations were also contributed toward the effort. In addition, CWS provided field representative staffing for AOC.

Among the funded AOC projects were an expansion of a pediatric hospital in Kerbala ($165,914); a pre-war medical shipment ($91,000); water tinkering of potable water in the Hay Tariq (sp) section of Baghdad ($83,560); and support for a pediatric cancer ward in Basrah ($71,492).

BACKGROUND:

Established in January 2003, All Our Children (AOC) was formed to raise funds supporting children's health projects in Iraq. The 1990 Gulf War and 12 years of sanctions had contributed to the deterioration of the health, nutritional status, and general wellbeing of Iraqi children.

As a new war approached - and even as Church World Service, through its advocacy program, lobbied against it - an AOC field representative was positioned in Amman, Jordan, and oversaw a shipment of medical supplies that were eventually delivered to Baghdad, four days after the war had begun. The AOC representative moved to Baghdad in April following the fall of the Baath regime.
 
Iraqi health services were in a fragile state and medicines and supplies in short supply, but AOC funding immediately helped support projects in the poorest part of Baghdad: two health clinics that had been closed were re-opened and immediately began treating approximately 76,500 people - over half of them children - in a six-month period. The project provided medical staff and supplies as well as medicines, at no charge.

The partner - not named because of the need for protection due to ongoing security concerns - said this about AOC funding: "The direct and indirect impact and … results of this project could never have been reached without the generous, spontaneous and un-bureaucratic help of our donors, offered [when] almost nobody else was prepared to fund and support emergency response projects in Iraq at short notice."

QUICK RESPONSE WAS APPRECIATED

Indeed, All Our Children became known and appreciated by funded agencies in Iraq for its quick and responsive funding. Traditional funding sources often take months to process and approve requests, while AOC could approve a project and transfer funds in a little as two weeks, thanks to the way the consortium continued to work with its partners.

As a result, AOC responded to needs that otherwise most likely would have gone unmet. And, with a representative in the field, AOC verified and processed requests quickly.

Funding by private donors also worked in the group's favor: given the highly political nature of the conflict, many humanitarian agencies made the decision not to access funding from governments involved in the conflict. Thus the work of the consortium could be "impact-focused," as one partner put it, "friendly and loyal."

Clinic by clinic, hospital or orphanage, in Baghdad, Kerbala and Babil, supplies arrived to fill those unmet needs. Canned meat and hygiene kits were distributed; a laborer would need to work at least two weeks to purchase these items: soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, toothpaste and toothbrushes, bath towels, a hairbrush and comb, bandages and sanitary pads.

"What you did has made a lot of people happy. We are very grateful that people thousands of kilometers away care about us enough to send something," said one partner. Unlike materials from other groups, the consortium's kits - most based on the Church World Service "Gift of the Heart" program - include no cultural or religious messages.

In the four southern governorates of Basrah, Thi-Qar, Muthanna, and Missan, seventeen hospitals were about to experience a gap of two weeks in funding for fresh food. AOC supplied for 4,300 people the first week and 3,430 the second week, 80 percent of them women and children. Just for this project alone, AOC provided more than 150,000 fresh meals.

MEDICAL NEEDS BECAME COMMON

With an increase of violence related to the insurgency, the number of reported head traumas increased. The Neurosurgery Hospital of Baghdad lacked the shunts and bonewax necessary for surgery. Before the war, 5 percent of surgeries performed were to treat trauma; by mid-2004, trauma injuries accounted for nearly 75 percent of surgeries, due to the ongoing violence. From April to August 2004, approximately 200 surgeries were performed at the Neurosurgery Hospital in Baghdad, with about half of these on children. An AOC project provided needed surgical supplies - shunts, bonewax and Surigell - to assist these surgeries.

As fighting erupted in places like Falluja, partners proposed the pre-positioning of supplies in order to respond to flare-ups. Iraq's health structures continued to need medicines, supplies and resources. Interchurch Medical Assistance (IMA) boxes and funds for the local purchase of supplies were brought in; the first five IMA boxes arrived as fighting broke out a second time in Falluja -- each box contains medicines to treat 1,000 people for three months. In other areas, supplies were purchased locally in Falluja and three other flashpoint cities over a seven-month period: Najaf, Kerbala and Al Qa'em.

Another health concern continues to loom for Iraq: The incidence of childhood cancer has grown alarmingly in the country since 1990, especially in the southern Governorates. A recent study found Iraq to have eight to ten times the rate of childhood cancers found in Western countries. With one cancer center for children in the south responding to an 842 percent increase in cancers between 1990 and 2002, the Cancer Pediatric Unit of the Ibn Ghazwan Pediatric and Gynecology Hospital, in Basrah, received $71,492 in AOC support to supply essential diagnostic and therapeutic equipment; staff training; and the physical rehabilitation of the hospital.

FOOD SHIPMENTS AND CLEAN WATER

Fresh food was distributed for two months to children's institutions in Baghdad, Kerbala, Hilla, Mosul, Nass riya, Kut and Barash. Clean water was provided for ten and a half months to the impoverished Baghdad neighborhood of Hay Tariq - more than 41,0000 people. Community health improved during this time, with a 25 percent reduction of diarrhea cases from the year before. Renovations and staff trainings were provided at Beit Al Tuful, a Baghdad group boys' home. The project manager of the home noted: "There has been a striking change in the behavior of the children; they are much more calm and serene. I presume it is not only due to the rehabilitation work, but I am sure it contributes."

THEATER PROJECT HELPS CHILDREN FACING TRAUMA

Cancer is a lingering physical disease. Trauma hides in ways that shut down the mental health of growing children. A traveling theater project performed 71 performances at orphanages, pediatric hospitals, camps for the displaced, and schools. About 7,500 children saw the performances, with parents, teachers and caregivers also benefiting.

"You've filled the students' souls and ours with joy and happiness. We hope that you'll repeat your visit many more times," wrote a director of a primary school. Recognizing Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, [ ] AOC partnered with the same agency and, with UN funding, fully rehabilitated a Baghdad theater which last operated 20 years ago. In cooperation with the Children's Cultural Department of the Ministry of Culture, the AOC partner agency is working with theater staff to support a sustainable cultural arts program at Al Fanoos. Once a week, 30 cultural acts  - plays, musical performances, and puppet shows - are attended by 175 children.

And then there are the children at risk, children who have been institutionalized or who live on the street. These children receive CWS "Gift of the Heart" Health Kits and, in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, may be reintegrated with their families, while a mobile unit supports children who remain throughout Baghdad.

CWS partners in the AOC effort included: Jubilee Partners; Lutheran World Relief; the National Council of Churches; Mennonite Central Committee; Oxfam America; Sojourners; and Stop Hunger Now. In addition to income support, the MCC also provided administrative support for the AOC effort.

Contact:
Ann Walle
Church World Service
awalle@churchworldservice.org


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