Humanitarian Aid Workers in Iraq Fearful for Safety

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, July 9, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Baghdad fell three months ago, but when it comes to Iraq's future, the relief effort still has a long way to go.

Earlier I spoke to Margaret Hassan, the Iraq director of CARE (search). I asked her how the humanitarian aid work is going. And that's today's big question.


MARGARET HASSAN, IRAQ DIRECTOR, CARE: There are lots of players in the field at the moment, one of whom, of course, is CARE, and giving aid across the board. And particularly in water and health, I would say they're the main things that people are engaged in, although some people are engaged also in child protection. And food is really looked after through the Oil for Food program...

GIBSON: Ms. Hassan, what about the security for nongovernmental organization (search) workers, aid workers. Do aid workers feel safe in Iraq?

HASSAN: I certainly don't think they feel as safe as they did, say, two months ago. They feel quite unsafe at night. We ourselves in CARE, when we're going out to Baghdad, we go in ordinary Iraqi cars. We do not go in our marked vehicles. And I think you will find that across the board with humanitarian workers. It really limits our mobility.

GIBSON: Has any humanitarian worker been killed?

HASSAN: No, they haven't, but, of course, with the two journalists having been killed, it makes people nervous. Some of it is perceived fear, of course, and some of it is real and one has to take that into consideration.

GIBSON: What would be your view on how the security situation could be improved with the help of the coalition forces?

HASSAN: Well, of course, one of the things would be to have more police visible on the streets.

GIBSON: Iraqi police or American?

HASSAN: Well, Iraqi, I think, is better, because the population would know Iraqis. They speak Arabic, they would be able to control things. But there aren't enough police on the street. So people do feel vulnerable. And you will find that people are not out as late as they used to be previously. Don't forget, it's very hot here at the moment and that's normally the time people would go out in the evenings.

GIBSON: Ms. Hassan, do you get the sense that the threats to aid workers, which then prevents them carrying out their humanitarian work, is coming from the same people who are attacking American soldiers on the street?

HASSAN: I'm not aware of any direct threats to aid workers. I'm certainly not aware of them.

GIBSON: But you don't feel safe.

HASSAN: No, we don't feel safe, but it's because …I think some of it is perceived. And… because one hears of incidents. And when American armored vehicles are blown up, you could be near that. That's the kind of unsafe that people feel.

GIBSON: What is it, from the point of the view of the humanitarian workers, that you think the coalition forces should be doing now and in the next couple of weeks or months?

HASSAN: Well, I suppose in the long term you have to have greater engagement with the vast population, the vast mass of the population. That's the only way that things can really move forward. I don't know whether that's the actual role of the coalition forces...

GIBSON: But do you recommend…Americans are having a hard time understanding what they should do at this time. Be less visible on the streets of Baghdad and around Iraq and let Iraqi police take over? Or we hear people say, "You need to be more visible. You need to engage more." And an American goes into a DVD shop or a music shop and is shot in the back of the head. It's a little confusing what Americans should be doing. You are saying which?

HASSAN: Well, it's difficult for me to tell you which one to do because I'm not qualified to do that, as you can appreciate. I'm an aid worker. I would say that there needs to be greater engagement with the population at large. However, I do think that on any police force, it should really be the national police force. But I'm not qualified to give you that decision. I mean, I just don't know.

GIBSON: The reason I'm asking you is that aid workers, whose work needs to be done, apparently don't feel safe and therefore don't go to do it.

HASSAN: No. I think that aid workers are doing it. They're just making arrangements so that they can do it with the least risk. I wouldn't say that people are not doing it. Of course, everybody's working. There are lots of humanitarian aid workers here, all working, all day long. And I wouldn't say that their work is curbed. They just do it differently. That is all.

GIBSON: Margaret Hassan, thank you very much.

HASSAN: Thank you.


Click  here to order a complete transcript of the show.

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2003 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2003 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.