Caritas-Jerusalem Mobilizes to Cope with Possible Effects of War

Officials Expecting Curfews in Palestinian Areas

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JERUSALEM, MARCH 19, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Caritas-Jerusalem is getting ready for what it expects to be ripple effects in the Holy Land from a U.S.-led military attack against Iraq.



"One of Caritas-Jerusalem's main concerns is the possibility of reinforced closures and curfews in Palestinian villages and towns, as seen during the last Gulf war in 1991," the organization explained in a press release.

"The consequences could be limited freedom of movement of civilians and medical staff as well as lack of access to medical supplies, food and water," they added.

Caritas' two health clinics have purchased extra supplies, just in case. The director of the Caritas Taybeh Health Clinic, Dr. Riyad Muadi, says: "Shortage of medicine will be crucial. We have prepared a stock of medicine for emergency cases and bought extra supplies, such as oxygen cylinders, IV solutions and plasma substitutes."

Possible access problems of medical staff are likewise taken into account.

The director of the Aboud clinic, Dr. Daoud Abdeen, said: "We have made an agreement with the parish priest. If our doctor and technician cannot leave Aboud due to closure, they can sleep in the priest's home."

The two clinics made agreements to get assistance from doctors from the surrounding villages, if their staff is denied entry.

In Aboud Health Clinic, the employees have been trained in evacuation procedures, crisis management, and in how to respond to various scenarios, such as a biological or a chemical attack from Iraq. The clinic has prepared informative leaflets for Aboud's population on these scenarios, only to be distributed if relevant.

Past experiences have shown that food supplies kept in storage rooms in emergency situations is not optimal. Several storage rooms were broken into, after the Israeli military operations last spring. In Bethlehem, this also created internal struggles among the Palestinian local population.

Caritas-Jerusalem has instead chosen a coupon system; 290 families have received a coupon worth 25 shekels to be used in the local grocery. Water and milk are obligatory purchases. Coupons to cover gas cylinders for heating have been distributed to families as well.

The beneficiaries are poor families in Bethlehem, Jericho, Jenin and surrounding villages, and East Jerusalem. They were chosen in coordination with the local community and the parish priest in the respective villages.

The assistance is coordinated with other non-governmental organizations providing emergency aid in these areas. Muslim and Christian families alike are helped.