The head of an international NGO on Friday urged the government to understand that a war on Iraq would trigger a major humanitarian disaster.
In an interview with The Japan Times, Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International, a British-based nongovernmental organization, said he hopes to convince Japan to stop supporting a U.S.-led attack on Iraq.
“We are not happy that the Japanese government is using aid programs to put pressure on U.S. Security Council members,” he said. “Aid is something to be used for poverty reduction.
“We refuse to receive any money (for our humanitarian work in Iraq) from belligerent governments such as Japan during the war on Iraq.”
Oxfam International, a confederation of 12 organizations in 108 countries, for the last 60 years has helped people in regions torn by conflict. It has never received financial support from the Japanese government.
The group has provided staff and equipment for water supply and sanitation, as well as food and shelter, in places like East Timor, southeast Africa and Rwanda.
With the threat of war looming in Iraq, Hobbs said he is particularly concerned that public lifelines such as water, electricity and traffic systems will be targeted in precision attacks, as is often the case in military conflicts.
According to group officials, it is against humanitarian law under the Geneva Convention for “any objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population” to be targeted during military action.
“(Iraq’s) water supply and sewage systems, which are already in poor condition after decades of war, could worsen, causing disastrous consequences for the health of the people, such as cholera outbreak,” Hobbs said. Equipment such as water filtration systems and sanitation are already on palettes at Oxfam headquarters that can be airlifted to Iraq within 24 hours, he added.
“We are still working hard to try to avert war,” he said. The group is preparing a letter to Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and hopes to hand it to her by Monday.
“We don’t believe that military action on Iraq is justifiable, with people already in a vulnerable situation with 16 (million) out of 22 million people on food rations due to 12 years of economic sanctions.”
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