News

USIS Washington 
File

22 April 1998

FIRST U.S. AID FLIGHT SET FOR IRAQ

(AmeriCare will send medicine, supplies for maternal, child care)
(840)
By Judy Aita

USIA Staff Writer



New York -- The first planeload of humanitarian supplies from the
United States will land in Iraq April 27, carrying nearly 90,000
pounds of medicines and medical supplies for Iraqi maternal and child
care programs.


AmeriCare, the U.S.-based international disaster relief organization,
announced April 23 that its first "American people to Iraqi people"
airlift of humanitarian supplies will leave Kennedy Airport in New
York April 24 loaded with donations from American pharmaceutical
companies.


After an intermediate stop in Amsterdam for additional medical
supplies, the AmeriCare supplies and team members will fly to Amman,
Jordan, where the Royal Jordanian Air Force will help AmeriCare
transport the medicines to Baghdad. In Baghdad, AmeriCare will work
with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies to deliver the materials to 21 clinics throughout Iraq.


AmeriCare is a private, not-for-profit disaster and humanitarian
relief organization based in Connecticut. Active in the United States
and more than 110 countries, it has delivered more than $1,700 million
worth of donated medicine and relief supplies since its founding in
1981.


"It has been clear for some time that the American people care about
the Iraqi people. AmeriCare is privileged to be acting on behalf of
the people of the United States in providing a helping hand to ease
some of the suffering of individuals throughout Iraq," AmeriCare
founder Robert Macauley said in a statement to the press.


"AmeriCare goes where there is a need, irrespective of race, creed or
political persuasion," said the organization's vice-chairman, Guy
Smith, at a press conference outlining the program.


In 1997 an AmeriCare plane was the first American aircraft to land in
Pyongyang, North Korea, since the Korean Conflict and now a third
flight is planned for May 1998. Other teams recently have gone to
Afghanistan, Kosovo, Ecuador and Peru, as well as to disasters in
California, Alabama, and Florida. AmeriCare flew about 30 missions
into Bosnia during the fighting there, officials said.


In late 1997 AmeriCare approached the Clinton Administration with the
notion of a people-to-people airlift to Iraq, Smith said. "We received
an immediate enthusiastic response from the Administration."


Among the materials handed to journalists was a letter from a special
assistant to President Clinton saying, "the Administration appreciates
your efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq.
Your planned delivery of medical supplies in the next few weeks
clearly demonstrates the concern of the American people on this
issue."


Coupled with the support of the U.S. as well as the Iraqi Mission to
the United Nations, AmeriCare officials worked through the list of
approvals needed by both countries as well as the United Nations in
order to get into Iraq. (Humanitarian supplies are exempt from the
wide-ranging U.N. sanctions on Iraq, but approval is still required by
the Security Council's Sanctions Committee.)


There have been 15 humanitarian airlifts into Baghdad since the end of
the war, from Russia, China, the Arab States and, on April 21, from
the Palestinians.


In addition, AmeriCare required Iraq to agree to three conditions,
Smith said:


"First, all medicines and medical supplies can only be used for the
civilian population severely impacted by shortages;


"Second, there can be no use by the military of any part of the
shipment, and


"Third, AmeriCare personnel must accompany the materials all the way
to their point of use."


Those conditions are standard for AmeriCare missions, Smith noted.



Andrew Hannah, another AmeriCare official, said the supplies include
antibiotics, antihypertensives, and cardiac medicines, as well as
general hospital supplies such as sutures and sterile drapes,
emergency health kits for pediatric medicine and for obstetrics
medicine. Also included are nutritional products such as formulas for
infants and the elderly.


"We are also working closely with the International Committee of the
Red Cross (ICRC) to determine what the precise needs are in these 22
medical institutions so in subsequent shipments we can address
specific needs," he said, adding that an American physician will also
be along to assess the needs for future shipments.


An AmeriCare official also will remain in Baghdad to follow up, with
the ICRC, and monitor use of the supplies.


The ICRC picked the sites, which are pediatric and maternal programs
in 21 hospitals throughout the country, Hannah said.


While the situation in Iraq engenders many political disagreements,
Smith noted, "there is no disagreement that there are a lot of little
children that need some help and that's what AmeriCare is doing."


"Our basic mission is very simple -- to save lives, help people who
are suffering and people who don't have basic medicine. That is the
essence of our mission," he said.


AmeriCare Team members include Vice Chairmen Hannah and Smith, Dr.
Stephen Winter of Yale University School of Medicine and Norwalk
Hospital, and actor Val Kilmer, along with about 55 other AmeriCare
volunteers.


(For more information on this subject, contact our special Iraq
website at:
http://www.usia.gov/iraq)