Poverty in Iraq – 2007 & Post First Gulf War

18 Dec

According to this Al Jazeera film clip:

  • Millions of Iraqis live under the internationally accepted standard of living of less than a dollar a day.
  • Recent UN figures reveal two million Iraqis are in desperate need of social assistance but only two hundred thousands receive it.
  • Costs of living has increased. In Baghdad, food prices are rising. Apples per kilogram cost $1.50 and potatoes are 80 cents per kilogram. Both items have undergone a 100 percent increase in recent months. Black market petrol is priced at almost a dollar, also doubled after Saddam’s rule.
  • More than half of Iraqis use ration cards to purchase basic necessities. The current government, unable to subsidise any more, have reduced the number of available items on the list from 10 to 5.

Is this the Iraq that the Bush administration claims to liberate from Saddam’s dictatorship?

The Iraq where basic amenities and infrastructures such as drinking water and basic sanitation has been destroyed, and yet to be rebuilt? The Iraq where people have to work two jobs to cope with the increasing costs of living while prices of food skyrocket? The Iraq where families could no longer properly feed their children and send them to school for education? The Iraq where water borne diseases such as cholera has become an epidemic? The Iraq that has driven its people to fear for their lives, endangered by increasing ethnic animosity and sectarian violence? The Iraq where people flee their homes to become refugees in neighbouring and remote countries such as Syria and Sweden?

Former counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, Jeff Gates, in his article, ‘Preemptive War Criminals’, writing on the possible devastation caused by a second Gulf War then, described how the Iraqi society, was already in tatters and ruins after the first military invasion.

In his commentary, he wrote:

  • In 1999, the mortality rate for Iraqi children was 130 per thousand, an increase from 50 per thousand during the late 1980s.
  • UNICEF reported that 500,000 more children were estimated to have died in Iraq in the decade following the Gulf War than in the previous one.
  • Denis Halliday, former UN representative in Baghdad, says, “we are running a genocide program in Iraq.”
  • Before the Gulf War, Iraqi living standards were fast approaching that of southern Europe, featuring free education, ample electricity, modern farming, a large middle class and, according to the World Health Organization, access to health care for 93 percent of the population.
  • Since 1980, 525,000 Iraqis have died in wars. The Iraq- Iran military conflict resulted in 375,000 deaths where the U.S. sold arms and munitions to both governments.
  • The sanctions imposed by the UN Security council after the first Gulf War included items that were necessary for health and education. Printing equipment for schools were banned and extended to textbooks, medicines, medical journals, medical supplies, vaccines, vitamins, eggs, incubators, dialysis machines, dental supplies, milk and yogurt production equipment, water tankers, disinfectants, pesticides, insecticides and cancer medications.
  • During the first Gulf War, the U.S. and British bombers destroyed Iraqi infrastructure, targeting water treatment, sewage plants, power generators, telephone exchanges, food production plants, food storage facilities.
  • Unemployment exceeds 50 percent while those with jobs make between $4 and $8 a month.
  • Iraq spent about $23 billion on goods under the UN oil-for-food program which is equivalent to about $170 per year per person – less than half the annual per capita income of Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and less than half what the UN spends to feed the dogs it deploys in Iraqi de-mining operations.
  • In March 2002, a UNICEF official announced that the sanctions caused 25 and 9 percent of children in south and central Iraq to suffer from chronic and acute malnutrition. One quarter of Iraqi babies was born prematurely and underweight with few survivals.
  • Typhoid cases increased from 2,200 in 1990 to 27,000 in 1999.
  • 5,000 Iraqi children are estimated to have died each month due to sanctions.
  • In Basra, pediatricians reported an increase of 6 to 12 times in the incidence of childhood leukemia and cancer as radiation levels in flora and fauna reached 84 times the safe limit recommended by the World Health Organization.
  • Iraqi doctors reported 11 birth defects per 100,000 in 1989. By 2001, the rate was 116 per 100,000, including a doubling of congenital malformations in newborns among exposed populations and a surge in late-term spontaneous abortions due to congenital effects, reportedly now two to three cases each day, up from one per month.

Coming back to the year 2007, Iraqis are probably, if not worse than after the first Gulf War. It would not be an understatement that at least three generations of Iraqis (from Iran- Iraq war to first and second gulf war) have experienced the harrowing war or its disastrous effects.

The media recently reported decreasing casualties in recent months. Crusading journalism as if it is good news. The reality on the ground is otherwise – Iraqis continue to suffer under the effects of the two American led invasions.

Moreover, contrary to the reports, the departure of British troops in Basra may see an unexpected spike in violence at the Southern Iraq where inter-shia rivalry is escalating between the Islamic Supreme Council (ISC) of al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and the al-Fadila party.

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