Aid agencies split over Iraq crisis

Lack of information and confusion over the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq is causing divisions between British overseas aid charities over their response to the war.

Save the Children, the British Red Cross, Concern Worldwide and Unicef have already launched fundraising campaigns asking the public to give money to help with an impending humanitarian crisis.

But other charities, including some currently working on the ground in Iraq, say that there is insufficient information on the scale of the crisis.

James Kliffen, head of fundraising at Medecins Sans Frontieres UK, believes that there has not been enough media coverage of humanitarian distress to spark a widespread public response to a crisis.

"We're continuing to monitor the situation, but we'd never launch an appeal unless we were sure that we'd get a strong public response," he said.

Liz Waldy, fundraising manager at Tearfund also believes it is too early to launch a national emergency appeal: "When people give to an emergency appeal they expect their money to be used immediately to ease someone's suffering, and we don't have a good understanding of the state of play in Iraq yet."

There is also disagreement about which charities should launch appeals at the moment. "We're surprised that some organisations that have hardly any presence in Iraq are running campaigns," said a spokesperson at Care International.

Concern Worldwide defended its decision to launch an appeal. Although not currently active in Iraq, it believes that it is vital that funds are raised to help support programmes scheduled to swing into action as the humanitarian situation deteriorates.

Nicholas Young, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said that too many aid appeals had the potential to confuse the public.

"One thing that distracts the giving public is competition from aid agencies in a crisis situation," he said. "The sense is of everybody banging out their appeals as quickly as possible and that's confusing for the public."

"There hasn't been a Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal in Iraq because most of the agencies are not able to spend the money at the moment - the Red Cross is one of the few that can which is why we've appealed."

Last week, the British Red Cross was forced to reconsider its appeal after it failed to meet its first targets. Lewis Coghlin, head of fundraising, said: "The response to our new creative has been a significant improvement already."

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