Shortly before the U.S. ultimatum to Saddam Hussein's regime, the world federation of aid institutions of the Catholic Church announced the launching of an emergency plan that provides, among other things, for the use of churches as places of refuge.
Caritas-Iraq -- called Confrérie de la Charité -- has 80 agents and 15 centers spread throughout the country, which provide food for some 10,000 families and 20,000 children; potable water for 300,000 people; and medical care for some 6,000 individuals.
"Because of the crisis," a Caritas statement explains, "Caritas-Iraq has transferred its operating structures to Amman, Jordan, and, thanks to the support of Caritas' international network, has launched interventions given the imminent attack, which runs the risk of causing tens of thousands of dead, among a population that has already suffered because of the embargo, and two-thirds of whom depend on the distribution of provisions."
Caritas "has prepared the ad hoc formation of 400 doctors and volunteers, and of 87 churches as places of refuge and centers of protection for civilians; it has provided for the purchase of essential goods, sanitary and water purification equipment, and medicines for 40 health centers," the statement adds.
"Each one of these centers forms part of the plan for civil protection of the Iraqi Red Crescent," it says.
In addition, the international federation is deploying its resources to support the work of neighboring Caritas organizations, which are preparing to assist refugees.
"Syria has already received 40,000 Iraqi refugees, and is preparing to make a further effort in this respect. Caritas-Jordan has a solid network of volunteers ready to mobilize in case of need," the statement continues.
"In Iran, where a flow of between 258,000 and 900,000 refugees is expected, a great emergency plan is being prepared that involvers the Church and local authorities, as well as local and international organizations," the statement reveals.
In Turkey, Caritas and Red Crescent are preparing emergency interventions in agreement with local authorities, to operate in refugee camps that are being established on the border with Iraq.
More details are at www.caritas.org.