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W.Va. senator to lend a hand in Iraq

April 07, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A West Virginia state senator will be going to Iraq soon to help Iraqis rebuild their homeland following the war.

State Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, said Sunday he will be a key member of a humanitarian relief effort launched by Save the Children International, a worldwide relief organization.

Unger said he expects to be involved in setting up refugee camps where Iraqis can stay until their homes can be rebuilt and until public services like sewage systems can be restored.

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Unger said he will be a paid staff member of Save the Children and he has signed a contract to work in Iraq for at least three months.

Unger has helped lead humanitarian efforts both in West Virginia and abroad in the past, including a similar mission in northern Iraq following the Persian Gulf War.

After the war when former President Bush encouraged Kurds to rise up against Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader responded by attacking the Kurds. Many Kurds fled to Turkey.

Unger helped to establish refugee camps in the area to give the Kurds the support they needed during the time of crisis.

While conducting the work in 1991, Unger found a Kurdish baby. Officials later determined that the baby's mother had been shot and killed and the baby rolled off her back and into some brush.

The baby survived and the infant's family named the child "Baby Bush" in support of the president, Unger said.

Unger recalled seeing other children in Iraq who had been harmed by the use of biological weapons in the region.

"I imagine I'll see similar things as that," said Unger, talking about his upcoming trip. "I imagine there's a lot of horrors we don't know about."

Unger said he is not sure when he will be going to Iraq, adding that it depends when he gets his humanitarian relief visa. He said he expects to fly to Kuwait and then join a convoy into Iraq.

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