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U.S. Pledges Extra $200 Million for Iraqi Food Relief

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 3, 2003 – The United States increased its cash donation to the international community to purchase food for the Iraqi people, a senior U.S. government official said here yesterday.

"We would like to announce an additional contribution today of $200 million in cash to the [U.N.] World Food Program to purchase 324,000 tons of food locally" for Iraqis, Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, told reporters at a State Department press briefing.

The food, Natsios noted, would be procured locally to save time.

"There are going to be immediate food needs [in Iraq]," the USAID administrator pointed out, "and the best way to move food very quickly is to give cash to WFP to buy within the countries in the region."

The additional money will procure "enough food to feed 23 million people for the better part of a month," Natsios noted.

Natsios said the added money puts the current U.S. donation total for Iraqi humanitarian relief at about $730 million.

And, he noted, a ship with 28,000 tons of U.S. wheat from Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas was to leave the port of Galveston, Texas, today en route to Iraq.

That wheat shipment is in addition to another 200,000 tons of wheat that was previously pledged by the Emerson Trust, he pointed out.

Natsios declared that more wheat would be available if needed.

Iraq's current need for humanitarian aid seems manageable at this point, Natsios noted.

"In terms of the overall situation we're seeing, there are pockets of humanitarian need in Iraq, but we are not facing a massive humanitarian crisis," he emphasized.

Natsios noted that a member of USAID's Disaster Assistance Response Team had assessed the condition of the Basra airport, similar to what it had already done at Umm Qasr's port facilities."

The USAID administrator also announced that $20 million in grants are being provided to nongovernmental organizations for Iraqi relief: $4 million to CARE USA; $4 million to Save the Children, U.S.; $4 million to the International Medical Corps; $3 million to Mercy Corps International; $3 million to the International Rescue Committee; and $2.1 million to Air Serv International.

The United States isn't alone in providing assistance to the Iraqi people.

"Working with our Australian and British counterparts," Natsios pointed out, "we're attempting to assess the situation on the ground to facilitate the [Iraqi] relief operation."

He remarked that drinking water needs in southern Iraq in Umm Qasr and Basra are currently being met through the Kuwaiti water pipeline and donations of bottled water.

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