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[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ] Many, many thanks for this Dan. Some observations, which are mainly poorly-informed devil's advocacy, but might help clarify precisely who your criticisms are directed against, and what people should be pressuring them to do about it? Apologies if they're obvious/fatuous/already taken into account. 1) I think the link between decreased food production and malnutrition needs to be positively established. Presumably your critics may say that although domestic food production has evidently decreased, imports under newly liberalised trade conditions may have increased, which may even have brought the price of basic foodstuffs down. See, for instance, yesterday's article on Islam Online ( http://www.uruknet.info/?p=7921&hd=0&size=1&l=x ). This opens with the contradictory statement that “[t]he costs of gas and food are going up so high; so even if we make more now, everything is costing more”, despite the fact that the correspondent's same informer claims that this situation is exacerbated for food producers precisely becuase some foodstuffs are now cheaper: “In Saddam’s days we grew all our own vegetables to sell … but now so many are coming from outside of Iraq and it is causing us to sell them for less. So I make less profit now, and I have nine people to take care of, and it has made my life very difficult." One thing to determine, then, would be whether food prices have indeed gone down or up - maybe the data isn't available, but maybe someone's keeping an eye on it (or at least on an RPI or another inflation index)? This doesn't affect the main thrust of your argument, which is that ordinary Iraqis are evidently in basic humanitarian trouble (the malnutrition figures are in themselves an argument for food aid). There is a question, though, about whether this is because food is scarcer and thus more expensive, or whether people are just earning so little, so irregularly, that they can't afford to buy food even if it is nominally cheaper. There may also be reasons apart from underproduction why food is expensive even if it's being imported (principally, I suspect, things like increased costs of transportation with rocketing oil prices and insecurity etc. etc.) You don't want to set yourself up, though, for a shallow 'oh it's OK, market liberalisation feeds everyone even if no-one's farming anymore' critique (again, you just need to wave the malnutrition statistics in their fat faces). 3) For related reasons I'm unsure about an argument that goes: 'infrastructure needs to wait until everyone's fed'. If it is the case that people can't buy food because they're not earning enough even if food is nominally cheaper, then getting the economy back on its feet through better communications etc. isn't necessarily stupid - it may just be long-termist. That doesn't excuse the US and the UK not providing extra funds to feed people through aid if it's necessary in the short term, but there presumably is a genuine question about whether it's sensible to limit funding for long-term reconstruction for the purposes of immediate aid. Which brings me to... ...4) Are you sure no-one's providing additional food aid? What are the WFP, for instance, doing Iraq-wise? It's not immediately surprising, surely, that DfID and World Bank *reconstruction* plans minimise aid expenditure in favour of capital-building projects - they're obviously different things. Again, this doesn't detract from your main argument - the malnutrition figures suggest that if food aid is being provided, it isn't working or isn't enough - but DfID, the WB and the like may not be the right targets? 5) Obviously you're aware that except for severe famines, malnutrition is not just caused by food shortages. Often much more significant are levels of chronic and infectious disease (and vice-versa, of course: diseases reduce nutrient uptake and raise people's calorific requirements). These tend to be increased by poor infrastructure, displacement, urban fighting, etc. etc. (hence elevated levels of infant mortality, whose primary cause is arguably usually disease, exacerbated by malnutrition, exacerbated by disease...). In other words, the obvious point that malnutrition, disease and social dislocation are an interlinked matrix which may not be solvable simply by food aid. You should point this out: we need emergency funding for health, sanitation, hospital things. This is another reason why I'm not sure your reduced agricultural production argument is the central one here. (for refs on this, see the essays in S.R.Osmani (ed.), _Nutrition and Poverty_ (Oxford 1993). Robert Fogel's 1994 Nobel Prize acceptance speech at http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-8282%28199406%2984%3A3%3C369%3AEGPTAP%3E2.0.CO%3B2-S also covers some of this more succinctly - it's mainly about long-term mortality effects of malnutrition, but does usefully discuss the important distinction between gross nutrition (diet, calorific intake etc.) and 'nutritional status', around p. 371) 6) "the food distribution system is a shambles." Is it definitely? FAO says that "all Iraqis continue to receive their monthly food ration from the Public Distribution System" - they suggest, rather, that food insecurity is caused more by crisis needs, displacement etc. See point 5: i.e. might the target not so much be food aid, as insecurity, displacement, bombed-out infrastructure etc.? Mike *** Michael Lewis www.iraqanalysis.org _______________________________________ 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