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Aid agencies demand access to Iraqi people

Swiss charities say they are ready to distribute much-needed aid to the people of Iraq but have yet to be granted unconditional access by coalition forces.

Two agencies have even criticised the military for hampering aid efforts.

"In the areas controlled by coalition forces, the victors must feed the people but military humanitarian aid is not independent," Karl Schuler from the Swiss Red Cross told swissinfo.

He said that aid had to be distributed fairly, so that the weakest were also included.

His comments were echoed by Rolf Stocker of the Swiss Workers' Charity, an independent organisation working on the Turkish border.

"When the military is in charge of humanitarian aid, there's no guarantee that needs are really met," he said. "We are calling for unconditional access to the civil population."

Food aid

Many of the organisations have already begun transporting humanitarian supplies to some parts of Iraq.

Swiss Inter-Church Aid, HEKS, is involved in a joint project with the Swiss Catholic Charity, Caritas, to send supplies from the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Four trucks, laden with 750 food packages and 18 water tanks, are on their way to the region around the Iraqi city of Khosravi.

Other charities have promised financial assistance towards supporting humanitarian aid to Iraq. Swiss Solidarity has to date managed to raise SFr740,000 ($536,000).

It recently announced that it would donate SFr567,000 immediately for drinking water projects and for food aid.

swissinfo, Isobel Johnson and Faryal Mirza


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