Vatican Agency Director Urges Patience With Aid to Iraq

NEW YORK – “We need to be patient and exercise prudence in our aid to Iraq,” said Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s Regional Director for Jordan and Iraq, during strategic planning meetings held at the Vatican agency’s administrative center in New York.

“A long-term human development program, not a quick fix, is what is needed there,” Mr. Bahou continued. “Everything–medicine, food, even ambulances–is now available in Iraq, provided you have the money,” he said. “This is fortunate for us now, as armed gangs are intercepting supply convoys traveling from Jordan, stealing the contents, stripping the vehicles and even killing the drivers.”

Last autumn, CNEWA suspended its biweekly Jordan-to-Iraq convoy of emergency aid, which began immediately after the war.

CNEWA’s assistance to needy Iraqis has entered a second phase.

“We are assisting with the expansion of Baghdad’s St. Raphael Hospital, providing seed money for a $1.2 million wing that will serve as an outpatient clinic for Baghdad’s poor,” Mr. Bahou said. In April, an administrator for the 86-bed, Dominican-run facility is scheduled to visit the Italian Hospital in the Jordanian capital of Amman, a Catholic facility that offers a free daily clinic to hundreds of people in need, including Iraqi refugees. Like the Amman clinic, Baghdad’s outpatient program will be subsidized by CNEWA.

In addition to its ongoing support of Al Hayat, a 25-bed maternity hospital in central Baghdad run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, CNEWA is forging ahead with plans to build a prenatal and postnatal clinic in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

“We have secured property, funding and a commitment from the Dominican Sisters to administer the clinic,” Mr. Bahou said. Modeled on a similar clinic operating in the Jordanian city of Zerqa, the facility will serve more than 35,000 people a year, offering a host of specialized health care programs.

“Mosul’s poor need a clinic such as this,” Mr. Bahou continued, “but we must proceed with caution as the area remains unstable.

“CNEWA is in Iraq for the long haul, even if the world’s attention has been diverted elsewhere.”

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