New York, 30 jan ---- Margaret Hassan, CARE Country Director Iraq, has arrived in New York to brief UN agencies on the current humanitarian crisis in Iraq.
Following the imposition of comprehensive UN sanctions in 1990 and the Gulf War in 1991, the humanitarian situation in Iraq reached a near catastrophic situation by the mid 90's. "The Iraqi people now don’t have the resources to withstand an additional crisis", Margaret Hassan explains.
Electricity, essential for many services and previously enjoyed by the remotest villages, is now generally available for less then 12 hours per day in many parts of Iraq. This has obvious impact on water quantity and quality, sewage treatment, health facilities, education and overall quality of life for the majority of the population in the centre and south of Iraq.
Food rations are insufficient
Although the United Nations World Food Program confirms that the government ration system is highly efficient, the government food ration provided under the “Oil-for-Food” program is insufficient and only lasts most families between twenty-one and twenty-five days. While the Kcalorie content of the ration meets UN World Health Organisation standards, it is not balanced, being mainly carbohydrate based, poor in protein and micro-nutrients. According to the World Food Program, for 40% of the population, the government food ration is the primary source of family income. There is little or no cash in the economy and, as has been reported by the UN Secretary General, many families barter parts of their ration to obtain other essential items
Over the period of twelve years since sanctions were first imposed in 1990, most families in Iraq have expended any assets that they once may have had. In many instances, home appliances, furnishings, heirlooms, rugs and other household items have been sold to provide cash needed for unexpected health or other urgent family needs. Today, few families in Iraq retain any cash or physical assets other than their family home.
One third of all children no longer attend school
Chronic malnutrition in under 5 year olds soared from 18.7% following the Gulf War in 1991 to 30% in 2000. The average child under 5 years old suffers 14 episodes of diarrhoea per year, which is an increase of approximately 300% since 1990. One third of all children no longer attend school, as families are either unable to afford associated costs of the free education or are working to supplement family income. Non-attendance by female children is higher than male children where, prior to 1990, female and male school attendance and educational standards were approximately equal. More than half of the school buildings in the centre and south of Iraq are considered by UNICEF as unfit environments for teaching and learning.
"CARE knows where every single hospital in Iraq is"
CARE International established a presence in Iraq in 1991 following the Gulf War. Since that time, CARE is the only international non-governmental organisation to have maintained a continuous presence and program in the centre and south of Iraq. Since 1991, CARE’s programs have provided humanitarian relief assistance to over seven million people - approximately one-third of the population of Iraq.
Since 1995, CARE’s program in the centre and south of Iraq has focused on water and sanitation, health and children. CARE Iraq has provided supplementary food items and lactose-free milk to 97 paediatric hospitals throughout the Centre and South of Iraq. Through these projects CARE has gained a very good overview of the health status in the different governorates, the conditions in the hospitals and health centres.