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[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ] [apologies: this rambles non-comprehensively across several topics. In my defense, these are all important, under-discussed areas, and if I tried to be comprehensive nobody would read it, because food production is really boring. It's also been written in a rage, so don't trust my facts or neutrality!] I've been doing a little reading on the food situation in Iraq, and what I've found has been disturbing, and much worse than I'd thought. If you think back a year or so, you'll remember that we were told that food wasn't an immediate problem. Generally, upbeat media reports highlighted the lack of impact on crops currently in the ground, and glossed over the fact that the next season's crops weren't being planted, and that there was a serious shortage of fertilizer. Well, now all those ignored footnotes are coming back with a vengeance.The FAO estimates (1) that 2004 cereal production is half of 2003 production. This is partly as a result of problems last year (which we can't now do much about). But they're also partly because of 'serious shortages of fertilizers and other agricultural inputs'. And this is having a real effect: it's killing children. A recent (and, as far as I can tell, unpublished) report by the UNDP and a Norwegian group (3) shows that child malnutrition is now running at 7.7%. This is being mis-spun as a recent rise: in fact, UNICEF figures from April/May 2003 (4) suggest that the rate was already 7.7% then. But even with this qualification, it's shocking that all the billions being poured into Iraq haven't even started to deal with the most basic needs of the population. To clarify what this means: something like 740,000 Iraqi children are underfed to the extent that it's stunting their growth. Isn't that something that international donors should be worrying about? No: they're as bored with food as everyone else. What they want to play with is the type of 'aid' that gives civil servants the fun intellectual challenge of playing with an entire country, and lets the US and UK keep their fingers on the mechanisms of government in Iraq. EXHIBIT A: the DFID's Country Assistance Plan, released in February this year (2). Food doesn't really figure in their plans (where it does, it's outsourced to outside agencies. You have to show willing, but you don't want to worry about such politically unimportant issues as making sure Iraqis don't starve.) What really excites the DFID is the possibility of getting their paws onto the central government of Iraq. The DFID doesn't plan to give aid, it plans to 'support the development of government policies and reforms that bring particular benefits to poor and vulnerable groups'. And what reforms would those be? 'putting in place policies, laws and regulations that encourage businesses to invest'. The whole report is like that: go and read it if you don't believe me. Now I suspect I'm one of the more market-friendly members of this list, but even I don't think the best way to meet serious and urgent humanitarian needs is by shipping SWAT teams of civil servants into Baghdad to tell the puppet government what to do. Grrr... EXHIBIT B is more recent. Announced yesterday, in fact. It's a payment from the World Bank Trust Fund for reconstruction and development projects (5). Of $145 million, $90m goes for "emergency projects in health, water supply and sanitation, and reconstruction in urban centers". Fine. I won't quibble with that. But the remaining $55 million? That's used to 'strengthen the financial and private sectors', primarily ($40m) by building a new telecommunications network. They don't seem to see any irony in strenghtening the private sector by subsidising it. So the world bank's plan is not aid, it's toys: grand infrastructure projects that won't directly help the poor, will most likely be handled by non-Iraqi contractors and professionals, and will give the international plutocracy control over Iraqi infrastructure. Incidentally, exhibit B.i, if the court allows that, would be the previous grand from this fund: $7m to train civil servants. I've rambled a bit, so let me summarise: three quarters of a million Iraqi children are underfed. It's not likely to get better, because nobody's paying any attention to agriculture, and the food distribution system is a shambles. But the big international donors don't care, because they see aid as a means of keeping control of the government of Iraq. Right. I'm going for a walk to calm down. I suspect that by tomorrow I'll realise that I'm being grossly unfair to the wonderful people in DFID and the world bank, or at least I'll find some figure I've got wrong. Apologies in advance. 1. "Cereal production may be affected by serious shortages of fertilizers and other agricultural inputs. The 2004 total cereal production has been tentatively estimated at 2.4 million tonnes almost half of the previous year's crop. Despite the fact that all Iraqis continue to receive their monthly food ration from the Public Distribution System (PDS), the food security situation in the country remains extremely fragile. Recent events indicate a deterioration of security conditions which led to an increase in humanitarian needs in crisis areas. UN agencies are monitoring the evolution of the situation and providing assistance as needed. " (as of 15 October this year) [http://www.fao.org/documents/show_cdr.asp?url_file=/docrep/007/J2969e/J2969e00.htm] 2. http://www.dfid.gov.uk/pubs/files/capiraqenglishfull.pdf In the interests of fairness, I should point out that the CAP also talks about some basic aid. But I won't go through it: the DFID highlights this in executive summaries, because they realise that, from a PR perspective, it looks better than the rest of what they do. 3. http://www.indystar.com/articles/6/196420-4126-010.html. note that this seems to be based on data collected in May 2004 4. http://www.unicef.org/emerg/media_9419.html 5. http://wwww.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/480fa8736b88bbc3c12564f6004c8ad5/4f563683f9e1b37ac1256f63002eda8a?OpenDocument ------------ Daniel O'Huiginn email@example.com 07745 192426 24, Priory Road, Cambridge ------------ _______________________________________ Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-analysis All postings are archived on CASI's website at http://www.casi.org.uk