UNITED NATIONS – Casting a wary eye at scenes of jubilation and looting in Baghdad, aid groups warned that Iraq could descend into chaos and pleaded for help in securing unimpeded access to needy civilians.
"The images we see on television today are not very encouraging in terms of lawlessness in certain parts of the country," Kathleen Hunt of Care International said Wednesday.
She said humanitarian aid won't get through unless there is order.
"We need respect for international humanitarian law, we need the independence to move around and do our assessments and we need security," she said.
Representatives of several non-governmental organizations, including Save the Children and Amnesty International, expressed their concerns at a forum Wednesday with members of the U.N. Security Council.
Aid representatives welcomed assurances of safe passage from U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, but many insisted that the role of coalition troops in humanitarian and reconstruction efforts should be limited.
Negroponte told reporters that security in Iraq will improve as the remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime are stamped out.
"As coalition presence increases in that country and as the level of resistance from Iraqi forces declines, the security situation should improve and it should be easier for these agencies to operate in various parts of Iraq," he said.
Pakistan's U.N. ambassador, Munir Akram, said food supplies for many families in Iraq would last two or three weeks at most, and that electrical problems were threatening water purification systems.
The United Nations says about $720 million in relief supplies are on trucks and ships bound for Iraq, but it still needs $2.2 billion in emergency funds.
In an effort to speed aid to Iraq, the Security Council authorized U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to review nearly $16 billion in contracts approved under the oil-for-food program and give priority to those that could be used immediately for humanitarian relief.
The U.N. program, established after the 1991 Gulf War, uses Iraq's oil revenues primarily to pay for food and medical supplies.