Be patient, volunteers told


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 30 Mar 2003

AMMAN: Mercy Malaysia has called on eager Malaysian volunteers to be patient as the team here tries to reach the war victims and get a better assessment of the situation. 

Contrary to earlier expectations of various relief organisations, the Iraqis were not running to the borders of neighbouring countries, thus making efforts to provide humanitarian aid and relief more difficult. 

Mercy international relief manager Anita Ahmad said with the current attacks on Iraq, relief organisations including the International Committee of Red Cross and the International Organisation for Migration were not sending in new staff because it was “just not safe at this moment to move into Iraq.” 

“Even those relief workers already in Iraq are unable to do a rapid assessment of the area because it is unsafe to travel due to the heavy bombings and air raids. 

“The (British-based) Islamic Relief asked their two officers in Baghdad to evacuate but when the officers consulted the British army, they were advised against leaving because the roads are not safe to travel. 

“So similarly, we can’t go in yet. We don’t mind a certain level of risk but there are missiles falling everywhere. There are also sniper attacks. It is very high risk,” she said. 

Anita said it was “frustrating” for the team at the moment because they knew there were a lot of civilian casualties in Baghdad but yet they could not get to them. 

“I urge everybody back home to be patient. All our hearts are in this. Please tell everybody when the path is open, we will be there,” she said. 

The Mercy medical team which spent two days at the Jordanian Red Crescent camp at Ruweished, near the Jordanian border are now back here. 

The medical team comprising paediatric surgeon Dr Lai Fui Boon, physician (respiratory) Dr Jeffrey Abu Hassan and nurse Mathina Bee Ghulam Mydin had treated 64 people mostly Sudanese and Somalis who had fled Iraq. 

The team is currently here to explore other safer options to enter Iraq – either through Syria or Kuwait. 

However, there had been bombings and killing of civilians, including students, on these routes as well. 

Anita said the team was also constantly touching base with other relief organisations and exchanging notes on a regular basis on security and logistics. 

Dr Lai said the mission was not a total loss because it was also a fact-gathering one, adding that going into Iraq “is out of our hands right now.” 

As the situation was fluid and things changed by the hour, the team was still banking on an opportune moment to enter Iraq. 

Mathina took comfort in the fact that Mercy Malaysia was now making itself known and its name was already recognised here among other groups. 

Mercy Malaysia is the only South-East Asian relief organisation here. 

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