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The Current State of Affairs in Iraq

by Muslim Women's League
January 2003

Iraq, a once modernized country has now been facing a humanitarian crisis of immeasurable proportion after decades of war and an imposed embargo sanctified by the United Nations. Twenty two million Iraq citizens have suffered enormously enduring physical and emotional hardships during these struggling times.  The following categories only serve as an outline of their struggle:

I. Infrastructure

Iraq’s infrastructure including its water and sanitation plants was damaged after the 1991 Persian Gulf bombardment.  Currently, these plants lack spare parts and skilled personnel to maintain them as well as chemicals like chlorine to keep the cycle of sanitation going.  The electricity in Iraq is substandard and often Iraqis face frequent power cuts during the day.

II. Environment

Agricultural production has been disrupted and thus leading to an overall diminished availability of food grown locally. 

III. Health

Iraq’s health system has suffered much damage structurally to health care facilities as well as internally.

Malnutrition is widespread especially among children with statistics from UNICEF report (Oct 7/02) indicating that almost one third of children in the south and center of Iraq suffer from chronic malnutrition.  Cases of kwashiorkor and marasmus are both prevalent and place the children at risk of decreased immune system susceptible to infections etc.  The rates of child mortality have climbed due to decreased breast feeding, low birth weights among newborns, anemia among women. 

Communicable diseases are on the rise with cases of malaria, typhoid, TB, cholera and diphtheria because of the breakdown in Iraq’s infrastructure (including the water and sanitation plants).  Approximately 70% of childhood deaths are due to dehydration secondary to diarrhea and acute respiratory illness. (UNICEF OCT 7/02)

IV. Ed ucation

There is a decline in schooling (literacy) among school-aged children (6-15) due to multiple factors.  One in four children do not attend school – usually the boys are working to help offset financial needs of family and girls stay home to take care of their siblings. (UNICEF, OCT 7/02)  Schools have been structurally damaged and there is a shortage in school supplies etc.  Teacher’s salaries have dropped and there is a decrease in the number of quality teachers.

Intellectual isolation is a consequence of the embargo with a lack of updated references and textbooks since 1991. 

V. Quality of Life

A breakdown in Iraqi society has occurred with an increase in female-headed households, working mothers, children laborers and children on the street. 

Increased unemployment and market food purchases has made it difficult for families to survive with decreased purchasing power.  The result has left some Iraqis to resort to begging, prostitution and forcing their children to work instead of attend school.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 986 was passed and implemented in 1997 allowing for Government of Iraq to sell specified amounts of oil in exchange for humanitarian supplies.  It has become the food line for most Iraqis but there is much limitation and inadequate distribution of supplies to meet the daily requirements of an average person.

(For more details on above, please visit the following websites www.who.int/disasters/repo/5249.html, www.unicef.org/noteworthy/iraq/)

Future Risk of Iraqis

The recent passing of the United Nation’s resolution 1441 and Saddam Hussein’s reluctant acceptance by no means the Iraqi civilians are out of danger.  With or without the prospect of war, thousands of Iraqis will continue to die. 

The current living conditions for the people are a consequence of the Persian Gulf War bombing, the imposed economic sanctions, the eight year Iran-Iraq and the continued persecutions and neglect of Iraqi civilians carried out by the Iraqi government.  (For more details, visit web.amnesty.org/web/content.nsf/pages/gbr_iraq)

On the other hand, the consequences of war are serious especially with the risk of an unconventional war exposing   millions of Iraqis to a possible chemical/ biological unleashing of weapons if used by the current regime.  Either scenario, human suffering will be disproportionately high but the continued status of an oppressed Iraqi population is unacceptable and the living conditions are deplorable.

There are currently only a handful of international organizations working in Iraq to provide relief and to assist with long-term planning.  The following organizations are working in Iraq:

Life for Relief and Development  (www.lifeusa.org)

A non-governmental organization founded in 1993, which has helped distribute medicines, backpacks to the people in Iraq, and helped refurbish schools as well as has worked with the Veteran for Peace to repair water treatment plants.

Islamic Relief  (www.irw.org)

An international non-governmental organization founded in 1984, which is currently distributing food to the Iraqi people during the month of Ramadan.  The organization has submitted a proposal to the Iraqi government to work on 1) Leukemia Treatment Center 2) School Rehabilitation Project 3) Water Purification Plants 3) Advocacy against sanctions

Save the Children, UK

A United Kingdom charity participating in emergency relief and long-term development helping children and their families in Northern Iraq.

Care International, UK

A global organization to help end poverty which has been active in food distribution to children in Iraqi hospitals and has worked on enhancing the Iraqi water system with the Diyala, Mahaveal and Hamza Integrated Water Project as well as the Water and Sanitation Project.

Christian Aid

An agency of churches of the United Kingdom and Ireland

Catholic Agency for Overseas Development

A British charity organization that has distributed food to 40,000 Iraqi families and has funded a Well Baby Program.

Help Age International

A global network of non-profit organizations dedicated to improve lives of the disadvantaged elderly.

The issue of Iraq is a complicated one since there are no simple answers to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people. 

The Iraqi people continue to suffer under the current government and the prospect of war has its risk of causing massive civilian casualties, disruption of food/medicine supplies, additional infrastructure damage, environmental destruction with no guarantee for a predictable outcome.

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