SCOTT SIMON, host:
For all of the news stories about car bombings, sectarian violence and troop levels in Iraq, there's relatively little coverage of what life is like these days for many ordinary Iraqis. To try and gain that perspective, we turn now to Kasra Mofarah, who runs NCCI, which oversees 113 national and international aid groups that operate in Iraq. He joins us from his office in Amman, Jordan. Mr. Mofarah, thanks very much for being with us.
Mr. KASRA MOFARAH (NCCI): You're welcome. It's a pleasure.
SIMON: And you've been working in Iraq for the past four years, as I understand it. What do we need to know about daily life for Iraqis outside the green zone.
Mr. MOFARAH: Speaking about Baghdad, most of the central area where there is some mixed population, actually, parents are afraid to send the kids to the school because of bombing, kidnapping, killing on the road to the school. At 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon, nobody's going out anymore in Baghdad. There is only two hours of electricity per day in the capital and only 30 percent of the population have access to drinkable water.
The wealthier people are leaving the country because neighboring countries are not so much welcoming the Iraqis. People are somehow stuck inside the country right now.
SIMON: You mentioned Baghdad. Are conditions different elsewhere in the country?
Mr. MOFARAH: The conditions are almost the same in the central area, from Mosul to Baqubah and western Iraq in Anbar. There are some military operation going on, sectarian violence, terrorist attacks, insurgency and counterinsurgency. In this mixed area, where various ethnicities and sects are living, right now we are seeing even some divorces between couples, clashes between staff of organizations.
When I'm speaking about divorces, it's not clashes within the couple, but it's the pressure of the neighborhood, of the environment, of the families. Sectarian tension is reaching even the private and the professional life. And it's not only at the political level or at the militia level.
SIMON: We keep hearing that life is better for Iraqis in the north. Is that true?
Mr. MOFARAH: Actually, in the three northern provinces, there was some improvement in the living conditions. But these last few months there was a big arrival of displaced people. And displaced people are bringing with them some instability, they are changing the demographic composition of these areas.
SIMON: How would you describe the ability of the Iraqi government to provide for the needs of the Iraqi people - security, electricity?
Mr. MOFARAH: It's very much limited. Just these last few months we heard that about 150 people were kidnapped from the Ministry of Higher Education, the staff of the ministry itself. Ministry of Health is under mortar attack two or three times a week. The deputy minister of health is kidnapped now and another one is hiding because of they attempt to his life twice these last three months. We have one vice prime minister also in hospital. He just survived from an attack last week. We have one vice president also is in the hospital, victim of an attack. So I would say that the Iraqi government right now is probably trying to survive, physically speaking.
SIMON: So many people have made predictions, which obviously have turned out to be wrong. But what do you think the effect would be if more humanitarian organizations were to leave Iraq?
Mr. MOFARAH: I would not say that the NGO's are able to respond to all the needs but at least they are trying to mitigate the impact of this lack of basic needs. So it will be worse and maybe even dramatic. But I think that humanitarian movement and aid agencies will be globally affected if they lose this small space left in Iraq. Abandoning Iraqis will have also a very bad effect on their mental health. You, as media, you are also very much affected and there is not so much independent journalists left in Iraq. They don't have so much contact with the population and the most vulnerable.
SIMON: There are a lot of reporters, even very good and conscientious reporters, who never really get out of the Green Zone.
Mr. MOFARAH: Yeah, absolutely. Or from their hotel. And it's understandable. I mean outside life expectancy for a foreigner is about two hours, without any set-up or without any I would say safe haven and without a good network.
SIMON: Kasra Mofarah is executive coordinator of NCCI - that's an umbrella organization of 113 non-governmental aid organizations working in Iraq - speaking with us from Amman, Jordan. Well, Mr. Mofarah, thanks very much.
Mr. MOFARAH: You're welcome.
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