Donations to humanitarian efforts in Iraq are trickling in far more slowly than the war itself progressed, largely because the public has seen relatively few images of civilian suffering and relief workers have had only limited access to the country.
Some agencies have consciously avoided full-bore humanitarian appeals for Iraq, even as they gear up to help deliver clean water and replenish looted hospitals.
Fund-raisers say they don't know how much private money to ask for until they know who will control the rebuilding of Iraq, how much government aid will be available and what strings will be attached to it.
Catholic Relief Services, the international relief arm of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, has requested money for Iraq from parishes and on its Web site but not prominently.
CRS doesn't want Iraq to divert support from lesser-known but equally pressing causes, such as a food crisis in Africa that threatens the lives of 14 million, said Kenneth F. Hackett, executive director of the Baltimore-based organization.
"We're making it kind of discreet," Hackett said of the Iraq appeal. "The human conditions [in Iraq] within a month or so will probably improve substantially. The country is a middle-income country."
CRS has raised $500,000 for Iraq so far, about the same amount it had raised by the second month of the 2001 war in Afghanistan.
But it's far short of the $11 million the group raised by the second month after the expulsion of refugees from Kosovo in 1999 - an event many officials view as a high point for post-conflict giving.
Agencies in Iraq are still calculating how much they'll need. The United Nations is seeking $2 billion for food and other supplies from government and individual donors. UNICEF has said it will need $166 million just to help children over the next six months. So far it has raised $53 million.
CARE, which also had operations in Iraq before the war began, hasn't finished its assessment but predicts it will ask the public "for multimillions of dollars," said Marshall Burke, vice president of private support.
Most private agencies plan smaller roles. Many have been poised on Iraq's borders, prepared for an outpouring of refugees that never came. Some of their plans for convoys of supplies and staff have been stalled by looting and by military warnings.
Meanwhile, groups such Lutheran World Relief, International Orthodox Christian Charities and World Relief, all based in the Baltimore area, are working through partner organizations and churches within Iraq to deliver limited supplies.
"It's been a matter of figuring out where the needs are, and what are the capacities of the churches on the ground," said IOCC spokesman Stephen Huba. "It's been hard getting that information."
The groups' inability to operate inside Iraq has slowed fund raising, relief officials said. Many potential donors like to see what aid workers are accomplishing before sending a contribution, they said.
'It's not as visual'
In Kosovo, "it was easy for people to see the suffering going on," said Elizabeth Griffin, spokeswoman for AmeriCares, which specializes in medicine and related supplies. "In this case, although we have seen some images of people being hurt, and we do understand that people have been under sanctions for years, it's not as visual."
The organization, based in New Canaan, Conn., has raised $400,000 for work in Iraq, about the same as it brought in for the conflict in Afghanistan, but far behind the $2 million in donations at the same stage to help Kosovars.
Mercy Corps, based in Portland, Ore., has raised about $275,000 - little more than 10 percent of what it says it will need to provide water, food and supplies over the next six months. But chief development officer Matthew De Galan said the group is pleased with that response, which he called "significantly stronger" than donations for Afghans.
Many humanitarian groups have opposed the Bush administration's plans to coordinate aid through the military, saying involving soldiers in civilian humanitarian work is risky both to aid workers and to their credibility as neutral parties.
Some groups are unsure whether they will accept government grants if, for example, they are issued through the Defense Department instead of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said Sid Balman, director of communications for InterAction, a coalition of private relief groups working overseas.
Similar concerns were raised during the conflict in Afghanistan after soldiers initially handed out aid wearing civilian clothes with their weapons concealed, Balman said. Last month, a Red Cross worker was killed in southern Afghanistan, and others have been warned to stop operating there.
"The gradual encroachment of militaries into the nongovernmental space is of great concern and of growing concern," Balman said.
Controversy spurs some
In some quarters, controversy over the war has actually spurred donors to help Iraqi civilians who suffered its consequences, relief officials say.
Oxfam America, which - like many private groups - urged the Bush administration not to wage war because of humanitarian concerns, raised $641,000 in six days after the anti-war Web site MoveOn.org sent an e-mail solicitation to supporters. In all, Oxfam has brought in $1 million to help Iraqis recover.
"We have never had so many really emotional calls," said Oxfam spokeswoman Adrienne Leicester Smith. "I think this has been an issue that really galvanized people one way or the other."
In Waverly, Iowa, students at Wartburg College have been fasting at dinnertime to sensitize themselves to the plight of Iraqi civilians. They've donated the cost of their missed meals to Lutheran World Relief, which is working with other groups to reduce child mortality in Iraq. So far, they have raised about $5,000.
"Why not put it toward a worthy cause?" said Itonde Kakoma, 24, a Wartburg senior who helped organize the effort. "We thought that would be a fine statement for either side."