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3/29/03

Half a million Iraqi children traumatized by war, UNICEF says

As many as half a million traumatized Iraqi children might need psychological help as a result of the war, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) official Carel de Rooy said, IRNA reported from New York.

UN relief agency staff who were pulled out of Iraq before the US-led war began have been waiting impatiently for the go-ahead to return to relieve the plight of the civilian population, with only sparse information arriving.

"We don't know what we will find when we come back," he said.

"We suspect that there might be a major issue of traumatized children," he said. "I suspect that some half a million children in Basra, Najaf, Kerbala, Baghdad would possibly need psycho-social rehabilitation once we go back in."

Only Iraqi nationals among UN staff members have remained in place, working in tough conditions. A total of 1,000 UN staff left Iraq, while 3,400 local personnel remained.

"We would rather be in Iraq," said de Rooy, the former UNICEF representative in Iraq.

"We worked very closely with our teams there to the very last moment. We have a very solid team in place, highly qualified.

He said aid workers were waiting clearance to go from the United Nations Security Coordination Unit, adding: "We're ready to move to do our part to support the population."

UNICEF has 200 centers in Iraq, including 140 in Kurdistan, the Kurdish-held northern part of the country that has been outside Baghdad's control since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and 60 in Baghdad.

De Rooy, in daily contact with staff in Baghdad, said he had no precise information to date about child victims of bombings.

The UN refugee commission UNHCR was able at this stage to confirm only that there have already been major refugee movements.

UNHCR has set up four reception camps for 60,000 on the Iranian side of the Iranian-Iraqi border in the provinces of Khuzestan, Kermanshah and Ilam.

To date the International Committee of the Red Cross has reported some 22,000 people displaced near Penjwin, on Iraqi territory.

Information is likewise sparse concerning the situation in Basra in the south.

... Payvand News - 3/29/03 ... --



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