American Forces Press Service
Feb. 24, 2009 - Thousands of Iraqis are benefiting from U.S. humanitarian efforts, with a donation of 2,000 wheelchairs in northern Iraq and the gift of school supplies in eastern Baghdad. In Babil province, representatives from the Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team, community groups and several U.S. aid organizations presented 25 new wheelchairs to patients in need Feb. 19 at the Babil Rehabilitation Center in Hillah, Iraq.
The 25 wheelchairs are the first of 2,000 slated to be distributed to Iraqis throughout the province, said Army Capt. Pam Foley of Army civil affairs in Hillah.
The wheelchairs, donated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, include 1,500 "Rough Riders" designed for rugged terrain and 500 standard wheelchairs for hospital patients.
PRT members helped to coordinate the humanitarian effort and the donation ceremony.
"I would like to thank the coordinator of the provincial reconstruction team in Babil province, Mr. Ken Hillas, for this occasion, and we value your efforts in this province," Gov. Salem Saleh al-Maslamawi said. "We have high hopes that the Americans and other officials in Iraq that are committed to alleviating suffering will pull together our efforts to end their suffering."
The donation will go a long way toward increasing the self-sufficiency of Iraqi patients, Army Lt. Col. Doil O'Steen, commander of the 413th Civil Affairs Battalion, said.
"There are 25 percent of these people who require wheelchairs as a minimum treatment requirement," O'Steen said. "Therefore, the donation of wheelchairs will go a long way toward helping the disabled of Babil province interact with the world around them and to lead productive lives."
All 2,000 wheelchairs are scheduled to be distributed by April.
In other humanitarian efforts, Multinational Division Baghdad paratroopers and Iraqi security forces distributed school supplies Feb. 19 to students from two schools in eastern Baghdad's Nissan district.
The paratroopers, from the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, delivered gifts of crayons, notebooks, markers, pencils, coloring books, finger paints and toys to students in Oubaidy. The paratroopers' family members at Fort Bragg, N.C., donated the supplies.
"I appreciate these items for the children," the headmaster of the Al Assal kindergarten said. "We are very thankful."
Paratroopers have teamed up with Iraqi security forces in several humanitarian events to improve the lives of district residents.
"Events like this will allow the local residents' mood to change, because they are seeing that we are here to provide security for them, and we are here to help their children get a better education," Army Capt. Agustin Dominguez, the battalion's fire support officer, said.
The combined forces plan to visit several more schools in upcoming weeks, with donations ranging from fans and chalkboards to basic school supplies.
"They are looking for our help to improve the overall quality of the area schools, and we are going to do what we can to see that their wishes are met," Dominguez said.
(From Multinational Corps Iraq news releases. Army Staff Sgt. Alex Licea of the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team and Army Capt. Stephen Short of the 172nd Infantry Brigade contributed to this article.)