Oxfam pulls out workers after security concerns

Oxfam has removed its international workers from Iraq because of security problems, the charity said yesterday.

Brendan Cox, spokesman for the organisation, said a number of staff, including some Britons, left for Jordan on Monday, but that around 50 Iraqi workers were remaining.

The decision came after the bombing of the United Nations headquarters last week, which left more than 20 dead.

Mr Cox said the paid workers had been pulled out temporarily and would monitor the situation from Jordan. "It's a reaction to the broader insecurity that has pervaded Iraq since the end of the war," he said.

The charity had been working towards providing the Iraqi people with clean water, mainly in southern Iraq. "It means our programme is suspended considerably. What we are calling for is to try to address the security situation as an urgent issue," Mr Cox said.

"The security situation that we are experiencing, the Iraqi people are also having to live with. It's not just the western agencies who are finding it hard, it's also the Iraqis. It's insecurity from looting to criminal actions to the terrorist activities."

Mr Cox said the charity had received no particular threats as far as he was aware.

The UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello was among those who died in the suicide truck bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

Dominic Nutt, a Christian Aid charity worker, said forthcoming trips to the region would be under review. Mr Nutt, who was due to go to Baghdad early next month, said recent events had left him uncertain whether to travel. "People are more cautious. They have a duty of care over their staff. I'm not adverse to going to war zones but of this one I'm kind of nervous," he said. "There's no way you can map the situation. It's too fluid."

The International Committee of the Red Cross reduced the number of its members working in Baghdad last week.

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