UNDP Staff in Iraq working to expedite humanitarian aid delivery

Staff engineers and other UNDP technical experts have begun working in Iraq to assess the status of electric power supplies in the north and to prepare for the emergency dredging of the port of Umm Qasr

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By  Massoud Derhally Published  April 27, 2003

Staff engineers and other UNDP technical experts have begun working in Iraq to assess the status of electric power supplies in the north and to prepare for the emergency dredging of the port of Umm Qasr, an essential requirement for the delivery of large-scale humanitarian aid to the war-scarred country, reported the international organisation.

In Erbil, four UNDP specialists in Iraq’s electric power network re-entered the country Thursday as part of a broader UN inter-agency mission led by the Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq.

The UNDP international team met with UNDP’s Iraqi staff professionals in the north, who have maintained the region’s electric power throughout the conflict by carrying out basic maintenance and emergency repairs to power lines, generation plants and other key facilities. The UNDP engineers will immediately undertake thorough assessments of the state of essential public utilities and other critical infrastructure in Iraq's three northern governorates.

When security conditions permit, UNDP experts are prepared to conduct similar infrastructural assessments in southern and central Iraq, where power interruptions have shut down potable water plants and prevented the re-opening of hospitals and other essential services.

“A continued lack of electricity and running water in Iraq’s cities could become a humanitarian emergency, and we are prepared do whatever we can to help remedy this crisis,” said Mark Malloch Brown, UNDP’s administrator.

In Umm Qasr, where severe silting in the Persian Gulf seaport is preventing the delivery of large-scale food shipments and other humanitarian supplies, UNDP is preparing to begin emergency dredging operations. Specialized dredging equipment is now en route to Umm Qasr, and UNDP engineers plan to conduct a thorough on-site evaluation of the port next week. The dredging will be financed by a $2.5 million grant to UNDP from the government of Japan.

These operations are the first of many in which UNDP plans to address immediate humanitarian needs of the Iraqi population, with special emphasis on essential infrastructure. UNDP’s emergency assessments of the state of essential public utilities and other critical infrastructure will also expand further to the Mosul and Kirkuk regions as soon as feasible.

Beyond infrastructure repair, UNDP plans to mobilize staff to immediately implement labor-intensive rehabilitation activities, and the full complement of UNDP's Electricity Network Rehabilitation Programme engineers and managers in the three northern governorates of Iraq.

In Erbil and Sulaimaniyah, electric power supplies have been sufficient to cover basic humanitarian requirements, and UNDP national staff have been reporting to work since the onset of the military conflict. In Dohuk, power from Mosul has recently been restored, though continued voltage and frequency instability has caused recurring power outages. Households are now receiving electricity for about 6 hours a day.

Earlier this week, in collaboration with UNICEF, procurement specialists from UNDP secured generators, spare parts, switchboards and a fuel pump to meet the emergency needs of a hospital in Nassiriyah and a water treatment plant in Al-Zubair. The Al-Zubair plant had been operating at 10 percent capacity, providing potable water to only 40,000 people in an urban area of 400,000. The new generators have assured a secure water supply for the entire population.

Plans are also under way to send UNDP experts to Basra, where water and electricity supplies have yet to be restored. In the weeks ahead, UNDP staff professionals elsewhere in Iraq will be preparing to provide emergency power supplies for basic humanitarian services, including water purification stations and sewage systems.

As part of the unified UN agency appeal for support for emergency needs in Iraq, assessed at $2.2 billion over the next six months, UNDP is requesting $71.3 million for a humanitarian action plan for electricity network repairs, de-mining coordination, and labor-intensive short-term job programmes.

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