Groups Prepare Humanitarian Aid for Iraqis

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As the fighting continues in Iraq, humanitarian efforts to assist Iraqi civilians are already well under way.

American humanitarian groups are preparing a massive aid infusion to help rebuild the Persian Gulf nation once Saddam Hussein is gone, and it's expected the rebuilding will take much longer than the war itself.

"We will do everything we can to help them, first by ridding the country of a brutal dictator,” President Bush said Sunday. “Then we will also put food and medicine in places so the Iraq people can live a normal life."

Some aid has already started to flow.

Private groups like World Vision, based in Federal Way, Wash., are sending tarps, blankets and cooking supplies to Iraq. Another group, Seattle-based World Concern, has already built a huge refugee camp in Jordan to shelter and care for displaced Iraqi civilians.

"We are projecting about 60,000 people to come to this one particular camp at a minimum," said Kelly Miller of World Concern.

Such camps are largely empty as Iraqis wait in their homes, surviving on rations handed out before the coalition assault began. But soon they will need much more.

Michael Kiernan, a spokesman for Connecticut-based Save the Children, said the Iraqi aid consists of two major steps. "Initially, we will be doing the basic relief work — providing food, shelter, medicine, medical care," he said. "Then the more long-term care of the children. We will hire teachers, daycare operators, people who have experience with children."

Aid groups say fundraising for the humanitarian effort in Iraq has been slow but they are confident that will change once Americans see the poverty across the region.

"This is a very different Iraqi population that we saw 12 years ago," said Margaret Larson with Portland, Ore.-based Mercy Corps. "This is a much weakened population. This is a group where 60 percent rely on food vouchers to eat each day."

At this point, some feel crisis planning is well ahead of the actual crisis.

"World Vision has been in the area since October getting ready. We've been preparing a lot but we're not exactly sure what we're planning for," said Jenny Stewart, a spokeswoman for the group.

In a public/private partnership, the United States is shipping 200,000 metric tons of wheat and rice to Iraq, with double that amount ready to follow when needed.

Experts describe a complex web of U.S. and international aid, and plans for civil, political and physical restructuring that will spring into action as soon as the smoke clears and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is removed from power.

"Post-conflict reconstruction in Iraq is going to be a multi-faceted affair," said Eric Schwartz, who left the National Security Council in 2001 as special assistant to the president for multilateral and humanitarian affairs.

Garner's office will oversee several teams led by civilian workers who will unleash billions of dollars for crisis intervention and rebuilding, according to the Pentagon.

This will in large part take place under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has already begun the process of lining up millions of dollars in emergency supplies, medicine and food for the Iraqi people in warehouses throughout the region, according to officials there.

Joe Siegle, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who in the last decade has worked for aid groups in war-torn areas of Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, said non-governmental organizations like Save the Children are the "foot soldiers" in the first response.

"The first stages will be getting in there, getting your needs assessments, identifying the areas that are hardest hit," he said.

Fox News' Dan Springer and Kelley Beaucar Vlahos contributed to this report.