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Minister congratulates NZ Defence Force personnel on reconstruction work in Iraq

23 September 2004 Media Statement

Aid Minister Marian Hobbs expresses her thanks to the New Zealand Defence Force troops returning from Iraq this weekend, for their contribution to the rebuilding of the war-torn country.

“The humanitarian and reconstruction projects they completed were desperately needed by the people of Iraq and in a time of hardship, their work has been invaluable. We should be very proud,” Marian Hobbs says.

“A great, NZAID funded, project that the troops worked on was rebuilding St Mary’s School in Basra. No small task, the school was re-roofed, painted, fitted with new electric and plumbing systems, and furnished with air conditioning.”

The Minister also reiterated New Zealand’s commitment to help the people of Iraq.

“With the return of the Light Engineering Group (LEG), NZAID is now ready and willing to pick up the baton and keep New Zealand's humanitarian work going,” Marian Hobbs says.

More recently NZAID’s focus has moved to refugee assistance and support for upcoming elections, $3 million has been allocated to the UN to help support these initiatives.

“While I am delighted to have our troops home safe and sound, we must also acknowledge the brave and determined work of Non-Government-Organisations in Iraq,“ Marian Hobbs says.

“With help from NZAID and their sister organisations in New Zealand, these organisations are making a difference. Despite the danger, their people are 100% committed to staying in Iraq.”

NZAID is providing support and funding to many Non-Government-Organisations working in Iraq. These include, TEAR Fund, Salvation Army, Christian World Service, Caritas Aotearoa NZ and Save the Children.

“An example of the great work that NZAID is supporting through NGOs, is the Thalassaemia Unit at Ibn Al Baladi Hospital in Baghdad. Thalassaemia is a congenital blood disease endemic in the Middle East,” says Marian Hobbs.

“With NZAID’s help, TEAR Fund, the New Zealand-Iraqi Relief trust and the Umma Trust are providing the unit with medical supplies, equipment, educational material for staff and resources for patients and their families.”

In the 2003/04 financial year, NZAID funded just on NZ$2 million of aid and reconstruction work carried out on behalf of NZAID by New Zealand Defence Force in Iraq and Afghanistan.

NZAID and the New Zealand Government are still investigating providing further assistance to Iraq. Options may include governance, law and order (police and security reform), electoral assistance, infrastructure rehabilitation, de-mining and work in the agricultural sector.

NZAID has $10m allocated for conflict-related humanitarian and reconstruction work, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the current financial year. $1m has already been spent through NZ NGOs and their partners on alleviating the pressing humanitarian crisis in the Sudan.

Media contact: Trevor Henry, press secretary, tel 04 471 9131; 021 843 679. e-mail: Trevor.Henry@parliament.govt.nz

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