How Many Children Dead from Starvation and Disease in Iraq?
One can't know the exact numbers. 500,000 was the widely reported figure even 2 years ago. Dennis Halliday, the just resigned United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator said "we are losing 6,000 to 7,000 children a month, dying every month, as a consequence of the sanctions (New York Times 1/3/99). The Washington Post according to a recent Pat Buchanan column reports a minimum of 250,000. John McLaughlin on NBC news reported up to 700,000, based on the earlier number + current monthly totals. And that was before the last American bombing which included the refinery in the South with provided gasoline and lubricants for local industry which means fewer jobs. One shouldn't forget in this context Washington's bombing of the main Antibiotics factory in the famine raged Sudan. We have no numbers on the new numbers of children dying there.
UPDATE --Professor Thomas Nagy of the George Washington University recently published a study of documents released from the Defense Intelligence Agency, describing the intentional destruction of Iraq's water, sanitation, and irrigation with the full knowledge that it would cause catastrophic death and disease among civilians. Only columnist Charley Reese reported on it after it was first published in England's SUNDAY HERALD. In fairness to the American public, the matter has never received attention of the mass media (although Leslie Stahl on 60 MINUTES did ask former Secretary of State Albright if the deaths were worth while to which the Secretary replied, "Yes." In American neo-conservative publications the news was almost totally supressed. Also it was not the stated American intention originally to then blockade Iraq for 10 years to prevent the import of reconstruction supplies. That policy just evolved over the period.
Following is an earlier detailed analysis of the dying children.
4 October 1996
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today expressed serious concern for the welfare of Iraqi children and issued a plea for funds to enable the organization to continue a programme of humanitarian assistance throughout Iraq.
"Around 4,500 children under the age of five are dying here every month from hunger and disease," said Philippe Heffinck, UNICEF Representative for Iraq. UNICEF says its hands are tied by lack of funding for programmes to assist children in Iraq. Under the ongoing interagency humanitarian appeal for Iraq, which was issued in April/May 1996, UNICEF sought US$39 million of which only US$3.1 million was received. Last week, UNICEF requested for an additional US$10.5 million under the consolidated inter- Agency appeal launched by the Department of Humanitarian Affairs. The new appeal is made in response to the impact that the recent armed hostilities in Northern Iraq and postponement of Security Council Resolution 986 implementation. Resolution 986 (commonly known as oil-for-food) had offered some hope to those affected by the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Under the terms of the resolution Iraq would be allowed to sell limited quantities of oil in exchange for food and humanitarian supplies which would be distributed under close UN supervision to those civilians most in need.
The war against Iran (1980-88), the Gulf war with UN-coalition forces in 1991 and the ensuing economic hardship have created acute poverty and suffering among Iraq's 10 million children. "The situation is disastrous for children," claims Heffinck. "Many are living on the very margin of survival." According to Iraqi Government figures, cases of severe malnutrition increased substantially and the percentage of underweight children in Baghdad alone has risen from 7 per cent in 1991 to 29 per cent in 1995 - an increase of 400 per cent. The decline leaves the children of a once prosperous nation suffering from malnutrition on a level with those in Mali and Northern Sudan - two of the poorest countries in Africa. The causes are extreme shortages of food and grossly depleted health services as well as a breakdown in the provision of clean drinking water and treatment/disposal of sewage. The annual health budget dropped by 90 to 95 per cent between 1987 and 1995. For example the budget of US$450 million per year for the purchase of medicines was reduced to a mere US$22 million and the price of wheat flour in 1995 was 11,667 times more than in 1989.
In addition, UNICEF staff are reporting a rise in new hardships for children with sharp increases in the numbers of street children and child labourers.Since the end of the Gulf war in 1991, UNICEF has been present throughout Iraq providing over US$167 million worth of lifesaving assistance to children in the areas of basic health care, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and services to children with special needs. At present UNICEF has over 80 international and national staff in Iraq with half of these in the North. A network of warehouses, communications and transport is maintained by UNICEF in the North to support the efforts of other UN agencies, Non Governmental Agencies and local government departments, while it continues to play a major role in assistance to children in South and Central Iraq.
In December 1995 UNICEF adopted an Anti-War Agenda which insists on the rights of children to protection from the impact of wars and demands that every effort be made to minimize the impact of conflict on the young. "It is the singular characteristic of warfare in our time that children suffer most" says Philippe Heffinck. "It is essential that we find donors willing to support our work. Otherwise, Iraq's children will continue to suffer and this we cannot accept."
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For further information, please contact:
Marie Heuze, Chief, Communication
UNICEF Geneva, Tel. (41 22) 909 55 23
Margherita Amodeo, Information Officer
UNICEF Geneva, Tel. (41 22) 909 55 11