Attacks by Iraqi guerrillas on so-called "soft targets" that have claimed the lives of humanitarian aid workers have driven some large secular aid groups out of the country and left smaller, religious relief groups in the forefront of serving Iraq's neediest people.

Representatives from religious aid groups, which work largely in conjunction with existing Iraqi organizations, say they have been forced to abandon some relief projects as groups like the International Committee of the Red Cross pull out of Baghdad and Basra.

But the groups, which run on smaller operating budgets than large organizations like the Red Cross and have fewer than a handful of non-native staff members, have been able to remain in Iraq without a serious threat to their field workers. These groups, which often work on smaller, community-based aid projects, rely heavily on Iraqi staff members to carry out projects. Expatriate coordinators, some based in Iraq, some working out of neighboring Middle Eastern countries, advise aid groups on how to coordinate relief projects, donate funds and help them raise money.

And as secular groups pull out, in many cases, the religious aid groups are all that's left to combat malnutrition, shortages of hospital supplies, contaminated drinking water and other challenges.

Kathleen Moynihan, Catholic Relief Services' regional director for relief efforts in the Middle East, said her group, like other religious aid groups, focuses on a few specific relief initiatives. From her post in Cairo, Moynihan has most recently been working with Caritas Iraq, a local aid group that partners with CRS to promote a "Well Baby" program that educates new mothers about proper nutrition for their babies.

CRS also supports smaller projects in ...

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Attacks on 'Soft Targets' in Iraq Hampering Humanitarian Groups
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