Iraqi Red Crescent Chief Details Aid Efforts
NOAH ADAMS, Host:
And I'm Noah Adams.
In Iraq, heavy firefights continue in the massive Baghdad slum of Sadr City. For weeks now, U.S. and Iraqi forces have been battling the militia of Moqtada al-Sadr. A cease-fire was signed yesterday, but seems to have had little or no impact on the fighting. Thousands of people have already fled Sadr City, although many of them have no other place to live.
Dr. Said Hakki is the president of the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization. He came to our studio earlier. I asked him about the group's efforts to deliver aid to the people of Sadr City.
ADAMS: Getting the supplies has been difficult for the past three or four weeks. But we have sort of found out ways of getting the supplies through pushcarts or mules or small cars. Large convoys doesn't work there because of - the security situation is fragile there. So we try to avoid that.
ADAMS: You are, in fact, sneaking supplies into Sadr City?
ADAMS: No, we're not sneaking supplies. We have to get approval, but getting the supplies in as we need to get it in small batches rather than convoys.
ADAMS: I'm not quite clear about why the convoys don't work, if everybody is happy with the material coming in.
ADAMS: They have to be searched for security reasons. But if we have small supplies like a ton-and-a-half truck, it's a lot easier to look into and see that's flour or oil for food and that kind of stuff.
ADAMS: And what else are you taking in?
ADAMS: Water, water tankers - to hospitals, mainly. We also take medicine, medical supplies. And we're coordinating with the Iraq government, in case we get massive displaced people from there...
ADAMS: ...if the fighting re-erupts again.
ADAMS: In a larger sense, I know that you've been working on a program called the Neighborhood Reconstruction Program, which is designed to bring displaced people into the neighborhoods in Baghdad, to settle them in stable areas. How is that working out, and what is your intention there?
ADAMS: We need to avoid the problem that happened in Sadr City. Sadr City, the people are very, very poor. They live on day-to-day basis. Their children barely get educated. They don't have enough supplies of electricity or water or medicine. They're desperate people. They have nothing to lose. So they become a wonderful media for - an excellent media for those who want to come and more or less recruit those group of people into doing things. And...
ADAMS: Militias, you're talking about.
ADAMS: Yes. If we can house those people, get them jobs, get them schooling, get them medication, the likelihood they'd become recruited gets less and less and less.
ADAMS: So people coming back in, either who have left the country or have been displaced elsewhere in Iraq, coming in into Baghdad, let's say, where would they live?
ADAMS: We build, and we are working with the - also the government of Iraq to build some housing units - 5,000 housing, and we hope to start before the end of this summer here, this summer 2008.
ADAMS: Let's try to imagine a family here that's been, let's say, in Syria, has been encouraged to come back. What would be your sort of ideal scenario for that family coming back into Baghdad and finding a place to be a part of the neighborhood reconstruction program?
ADAMS: The neighborhood reconstruction program is for those people who are already inside the country. Once outside sees that the ones inside has become more attractive, then that's the incentive for them to come back. I don't think we should encourage anyone to go back, saying, we will give them promises. Let them see on the ground what happens, and then they will find ways in to get, if there are jobs, if there is incentive that - true incentive, they will come back.
ADAMS: Do you think they will settle? Do you think this idea is going to work?
ADAMS: Well, in my judgment, that this is better than what they - what we have now. There's nothing there at the moment. And if there's nothing there, that's the solution we have. If you have a different solution, let me look at it and see if I can apply it on the ground.
ADAMS: Dr. Said Hakki is president of the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization. Thank you for your time.
ADAMS: Thank you, sir.
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