Powell: Aid Improving As War Quiets

A mother waits with her malnourished children for evaluation by French Action Against Hunger (ACF) doctors in Dalaad, 400 kilometers (248 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Saturday April 15, 2000. The lives of millions of starving Ethiopians can be saved if international donors respond quickly to new requests for food aid, the U.N. special envoy to the Horn of Africa said Friday.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that American officials are "hard at work" to improve living conditions in Iraq, where the humanitarian condition "is improving on a daily basis."

Powell said there's "a huge amount of humanitarian equipment and supplies" flowing into the battered country — and no shortage of food.

He says aid workers will be able to better serve Iraqi citizens as hostilities decline.

With U.S. troops guarding banks and hospitals, parts of Baghdad finally began to return to normal Monday. Shops reopened, traffic snarled and people who had fled the fighting began streaming home.

But dozens of demonstrators outside protested the lack of basic services. Even as the security situation improved, the International Committee of the Red Cross said that the impact of earlier looting was only now "becoming more and more visible."

Of nine Baghdad hospitals surveyed by the ICRC on Saturday, four were closed, one was partly closed, two were open but hard to access because of security problems. Two protected by U.S. troops and one protected by citizens remained open.

"Key utilities (generators, AC units, medical equipment, etc.) and other medical or technical equipment that are so vital for these hospitals to resume work are lacking," a statement by the UCRC said.

At Yarmouk hospital, a 1,200-bed facility that was hit directly during the fighting, corpses were being piled within the halls before being taken out for burial, according to the ICRC.

Looking toward longer-term stability for Iraq without Saddam Hussein, fact finders from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank will go to Iraq to assess the hugely expensive costs of reconstruction as soon as it is safe to do so.

The finance ministers on the policy-setting committees of the IMF and World Bank "made it very clear that this is what they had in mind," World Bank President James Wolfensohn said Sunday, when weekend meetings of the two organizations ended.

The United States had pushed for teams from the two lending organizations to go to Iraq as a way of showing Iraqis they would benefit quickly from the end of Saddam's rule.

European countries, including some opposed to the U.S.-led invasion, at first blocked the assessment because it appeared to them the United States intended to dominate the reconstruction effort.

To resolve the issue, the United States agreed to a new Security Council resolution that would replace sanctions imposed on economic transactions with Iraq. Finance ministers left the wording of a new resolution to their diplomats.

The Bush administration is against giving the United Nations as big a role in running postwar Iraq as many European nations want. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special adviser on Iraq was on his way to Washington for talks with U.S. officials.

Iraq's needs are expected to be massive, ranging from $20 billion per year for the first several years to $600 billion over a decade. The United States also wants wealthy countries to forgive part of the huge debt Iraq owes them.

The administration, anxious about the rising American costs of war and reconstruction, has promised Congress to involve other wealthy countries and international financial organizations in reconstruction.

There was no talk at the meetings about exact amounts of the aid to come from the 184-nation IMF and the World Bank. Nor was there discussion about when the United States might call for an international donors' conference to try to round up contributions from other wealthy nations.

Social action groups lamented that the IMF-World Bank discussions were dominated by Iraq, saying this diverted the meeting from making progress on the millennium development goals of cutting global poverty in half and getting all children into school by 2015.